Worcester is a cathedral city in Worcestershire, with a total population of 103,872 in the 2021 census. The city issued a tender which requested a rethink of how play space strategies could be developed with a call for an innovative approach that would be in tune with children and families in the city.
Harper Perry, a creative and unconventional design practice, won the work. James Perry, the project lead, noted: “we want to look at what play provision already exists and identify ‘black holes’ in provision based on geographical access – i.e. proximity. In particular, Worcester has a big shortcoming in providing access to play for teenagers – MUGAs, skate parks etc. – and a smaller shortfall in provision for young children 2-11 years old.”
The team needed to get up to speed quickly with a substantially large area, and lots of play spaces. As in many cases, information on relevant spaces must be updated, was held in different places, or was not even known. For instance, the team noted that the council had mismarked some play spaces' locations. It was important to understand the ease of access, as well as the quality of provision.
What was done
Bringing all locations into one place with PlaceChangers
Harper Perry used PlaceChangers to help deliver a play strategy informed by walking access principles and hyper-local feedback.
At the start, PlaceChangers assisted Harper Perry in consolidating information on more than 280 play spaces in the study area, fusing records from official play spaces and ‘informal’ play locations listed on Open Street Maps.
For the final output, the team considered 196 play spaces of which 61 locations not captured by official records and identified through PlaceChangers analytics.
Walkable access analytics without complex GIS
Harper Perry then used the PlaceChangers spatial analytics tool, Site Insights, to generate walking access maps for different play space types and walking distances based on street connectivity. This process eventually identified ‘blindspots’ for existing provisions based on walking access.
PlaceChangers team provided easy graphics exports enabling the team to facilitate their graphics design expertise.
The PlaceChangers app made it simple to generate coverage maps based on actual walking access and different access parameters and play space types so to account for different age groups easily.
Harper Perry organised a range of creative, engaging workshops locally involving young people and families; and used PlaceChangers for wider detailed feedback.
The consultant team used PlaceChangers to set up an interactive consultation on the full range of play spaces where residents could give feedback on play space provision in Worcester in general as well as on specific play spaces.
While the project is ongoing, the client has been pleased with the insight and feedback they have received via PlaceChangers.
The place analytics tool on PlaceChangers digital platform enabled the consultant to understand gaps in provision more deeply than otherwise. They could generate complex analytics in minutes, re-run access analytics with new potential play locations, and export coverage maps for reports.
On top, the team gathered plenty of hyper-local responses, which they used as anecdotes for access to play across the 196 play spaces included in the consultation.
PlaceChangers enabled Harper Perry to gather unprecedented levels of user-centred insights, underpinning a quality play space strategy that went above and beyond the client's expectations.
Status: Approved at Cabinet
Director, Harper Perry
Worcester is divided by canals, rivers, and motorways – and so on. In the past, the last planning consultant doing this missed out on those disconnections. The shortfall in the past was measured as a shortfall that was not covered. PlaceChangers enabled a complicated analysis in an easy and web-based interface. It showed us that the new play sites are valuable and would be maintained.