Urban planning for the Minecraft generation

Have you ever wanted to create a few people, for real, here in the middle of York?

Well now is your chance.

York YoCo Community Group (which stands for York Central Co-Owned) has partnered with top national Demos think tanks to design an online toolkit that will allow Yorkers to ‘rethink’ York Central’s plans, the huge 110 acre site behind York Station.

In what is described as a UK first for a project of this scale, from October 1 you will be able to access a portal on the YoCo website (www.yoco.uk), download a copy of the York Central Official Master Plan, then edit it as you wish. You’ll be able to add new paths or public parks, sketch suggested designs for homes and buildings, and rearrange the way shops and offices are laid out.

An “Illustrative Map” of the York Central Master Plan

It promises to be a lot of fun – planning the design for the Minecraft generation. But it will be much more than that. All of the redesigned blueprints, along with the original master plan, will be listed on the site and ranked in order of popularity as people comment, like or hate them.

After two months, the most popular “community plan” will then be presented to the York Central Partnership, which manages the development of the site on behalf of Homes England, Network Rail, City Council and NRM, for review.

They by no means promised that they would adopt all or even part of the redesigned plan. But they said they would review it.

“We applaud the committed approach of YoCo and Demos,” said Ian Gray, York Central Project Director.

York City Council is also interested in what the YoCo / Demos approach offers. “We look forward to seeing how YoCo’s engagement work can help leverage the building permit to provide the housing, higher paying jobs and community spaces that residents need,” said Cllr Denise Craghill , Executive Member for Housing and Safer Communities.

“For a project as important as York Central, widespread public engagement using a variety of different approaches will help us ensure the best results for residents. This work should complement our own commitment around plans to set the highest design and environmental standards on the site. ”

But how exactly will the YocCo / Demos approach work? It won’t be a million miles from the “world-building” video game, admits Demos’s Jon Nash. He actually uses the word “gamification” to describe the approach.

York Press:

The world of Minecraft. Photo; Pixabay. York Central’s New YoCo / Des Approach to Planning Has Similarities to Building the World of Computer Games

Starting October 1, you will be able to register to participate with the click of a button on the YoCo website. You will then receive an email with a link. Just click on the link and you’re in it.

After you upload a copy of the existing York Central Master Plan, you can then start working on its modification or redesign.

There will be constraints on what you can do, Jon admitted. But you will have enough carte blanche.

“If you want to add more open public spaces, or cycle spaces, or sketch out what you imagine the development should look like, you can do that,” he said. “We don’t want to put limits on people’s creativity. ”

The portal will remain open for two months. Every time someone creates a revised plan, it will be registered on the site. Users can then download any of these revised plans and use them to create their own revised version. Any redesigned blueprints, along with the original blueprint, will then be continuously ranked in order of popularity as people comment on, like, or hate them.

So to start, there will just be the official masterplan, with a 100% mark, because there are no others. But as the project develops and more redesigned plans are submitted, things will start to change. Plans will move up and down the list as people comment or like them.

York Press:

Artist’s impression of the York Central appearance

It’s a method that shares something with crowdfunding, as well as world building, admits Jon.

At the end of the two months, the most popular scheme will be formally offered to the York Central Partnership.

The idea is to find new ways to interact with people across Project York Central, Jon said.

The demographics of people who participate in typical counseling planning consultations tend to be older.

He hopes that the elderly will adopt this method as well. But he also hopes that it will appeal to the younger generations. After all, he says, it’s today’s younger generation who will have to live with York Central as they grow up.

One of the key elements of the process is that it will encourage people to consider the master plan for the entire York Central site, rather than looking at a small part of it, he said.

He also hopes this will encourage people to work together on the plans in groups, discussing and discussing what they want to include or change in their version. And he hopes that will lead to “innovative” ideas. “We’re going to start with the master plan and then invite the people of York to come up with something better,” he said.

As far as he knows, nothing like this has been done on this scale in the UK before. “We’re really excited to be racing him in York,” he said.

The official master plan for the huge 110-acre site behind York Station, commonly known as York Central, was approved by planners in March 2019. It provides for up to 2,500 new homes, 110,000 square meters of space. commercial and office buildings and new streets. , shops and public spaces.

Often described as ‘York’s greatest contaminated site’, the development has the potential to generate jobs, create new homes and workplaces and change the face of York for generations to come.

York Press:

Helen Graham (left) and Phil Bixby, who led the initial My York Central consultation

The master plan was developed following a pioneering ‘My York Central’ consultation in 2018 which involved weeks of site visits, workshops, discussions and debates. But that’s still just a preview, with all the details yet to be filled in.

This will be an opportunity for the people of York to help fill in some of these details. But it’s more too.

Phil Bixby, a member of YoCo, the York architect who helped lead the My York Central consultation, said the master plan that was developed did not take into account all of the ideas from that previous consultation.

Take “zoning”, for example, in which a development is organized into separate zones for housing, businesses and commerce. One of the things that came out of the My York Central consultation was that it might be good to ditch the idea of ​​zoning and instead move to mixed-use neighborhoods, where homes, stores and workplaces are all side by side (or on top of each other).

That didn’t happen – and you still find the zoning in the master plan. The new consultation could be an opportunity to challenge this.

Mixed-use neighborhoods have real advantages, said Phil. There is a drastically reduced need for transportation, to begin with. “People can walk to the shops or to the cafe.” You also benefit from better land use. And you have a community that is “active at all times”, rather than a business district, for example, which is deserted at night.

The new YoCo / Demos project will be a real chance for the people of York to try out new ideas, Phil said. “We are looking to see what an appetite there is to take over the master plan and do more innovative things,” he said.

You will be able to access the YoCo / Demos planning portal from October 1 by visiting www.yoco.uk