One Trafford Partnership launch virtual reality platform to continue community engagement during Covid-19 pandemic

16 November 2020
Image of a virtual reality platform to continue community engagement during covid.

One Trafford Partnership (a collaboration between Amey Plc and Trafford Council) has launched an interactive web-based tool to continue engagement with local residents, businesses, community groups and stakeholders on the walking and cycling proposals for the Urmston Active Neighbourhood project.

The scheme is part of the Bee Network vision proposed by Chris Boardman, Greater Manchester’s Cycling and Walking Commissioner to make Greater Manchester an easier place for people to get around on foot or by bike. In support of this ambition, the Mayor of Greater Manchester allocated £160 million to the Mayor’s Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund (MCF), which the team at One Trafford Partnership were successful in securing circa £11.3m through a bidding process, to develop an active neighbourhood across the region.

The engagement exercise follows on from the Urmston Active Neighbourhood launch event earlier this year which invited residents and businesses to attend and have their say on developing proposals, to improve Urmston (including Flixton, Davyhulme East and Davyhulme West) as a place to live, work and visit. Approx. 600 people attended the event, which kick-started the consultation and also included the launch of the engagement website, that was used to gather feedback from the community on the changes that they wanted in their local wards. Approx. 3,400 comments were received that have now been analysed by the project team to create initial proposals for the scheme.

Despite the Covid-19 restrictions, the project team have progressed the project and want to give the community a chance to feedback on the initial proposals. Using virtual reality, a web-based room has been created to replicate what would be expected visually at an engagement event. The room can be accessed using a computer or an android phone and showcases consultation materials via pop-up banners, sound demonstrations, videos, maps, example drawings and much more.

Councillor Stephen Adshead, Executive Member for Environment, Air Quality and Climate Change, at Trafford Council said: “In the current climate and unforeseen challenges, it is important for the council to continue public engagement, especially on projects that promote active lifestyles. This virtual reality platform will help us to bring communities together during a time where it is not safe for vulnerable groups to leave the house.

“Following the launch of this platform we will consider utilising similar tools to continue our focus on digitalising community engagement, working alongside our partner Amey Plc.”

The pioneering platform allows for feedback so public reaction can be captured and a chat function is also accessible which allows further engagement with the project team and local Ward Councillors, who will be on hand to discuss the proposals and answer any queries.

Steve Tilby, Principal Engineer, at One Trafford Partnership said: “Using digital engagement tools will help us to reach the wider community so that they can understand what we are proposing and communicate their concerns without leaving their own homes.

“Amid the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, we are doing everything we can to help ensure the safety and well-being of our employees, maintain operational resilience and provide solutions that can help the community across Trafford.”

The Urmston Active Neighbourhood project is the largest walking and cycling scheme across Greater Manchester. The project team at One Trafford Partnership are hopeful that using similar platforms for the other MCF schemes within the borough will provide a resilient solution for future consultation processes.

Greater Manchester's Cycling and Walking Commissioner, Chris Boardman, said: "It's fantastic to see high levels of engagement with this project and well done to Trafford Council for continuing to make every effort to work with residents during this lockdown period. Active Neighbourhoods can bring a wealth of benefits to communities, creating quieter and safer streets for play, walking and travelling by bike as well as boosting local high streets." Learn more about Urmston Active Neighbourhood, book on to a webchat session and view the virtual reality platform by visiting here.