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GPS data & Mobile Phone texts to give children’s voice to urban expansion

The UK Government’s 2003 Sustainable Communities Plan inaugurated a major programme of investment in urban development with a plan to create 260,000 entirely new dwellings in a new wave of sustainable urban expansion. Now a new research project has been announced to help ensure that the needs and voices of children are considered in the shaping of those new developments. 

The project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), brings together researchers from the University of Warwick, the University of Leicester and the University of Northampton.   

The project’s lead researcher, Professor Pia Christensen from the University of Warwick’s Institute Of Education said:

 “We will not simply rely on conventional interviews with the children to gauge young people’s opinions and needs. Volunteer children will work with us to exploit a range of innovative technologies including GPS tracking of children’s movements, text messages to specially provided mobile phones to poll them on their daily activities, and web-based electronic forums where they can meet and debate the issues online. We will combine this with observation and participation in their everyday activities.” 

Project researcher Dr Peter Kraftl of the University of Leicester said:

“Our research will explore the best methods to ensure that children can participate in the shaping of services and gather evidence as to what elements of community design would provide the best opportunities for outdoor play and safe travel for children around their neighbourhoods.” 

Project researcher Dr John Horton of The University of Northampton said: 

“There is significant, longstanding evidence that children and young people have seldom been meaningfully involved in urban planning and policy making processes in the UK. A key aim of the project is to investigate opportunities and barriers for children and young people’s meaningful participation during rapid urban change” 

The project will focus on the experiences, issues and needs of children and young people aged 11-16 living in the Milton Keynes South Midlands  (MKSM) Growth Area, which is projected to undergo some of the most rapid and extensive urban development of all the Growth Areas and to incorporate between 300,000-500,000 new dwellings by 2031. In particular it will look at Mawsley ‘Village’: a new-build village of 900 homes located in the countryside between Northampton and Kettering; Oakley Vale: a development of suburban housing on the South-Eastern edge of Corby; Upton Meadows: a sustainable urban extension on the southwestern edge of Northampton. They will also look at Northampton Eastern District as an example of a “completed” development developed as part of the new town expansion scheme in the 1960s.    

For further information please contact:         

Peter Dunn, email:
Press and Media Relations Manager
Communications Office, University House,
University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 8UW, United Kingdom     
UK Tel: 024 76 523708 Mobile 07767 655860

Professor Pia Christensen, Professor of Anthropology and Childhood Studies
Institute of Education, University of Warwick Tel: 02476 523938  

Dr John Horton, Centre for Children and Youth
The University of Northampton
Telephone: 01604 892990 

Dr Peter Kraftl, University of Leicester
0116 252 5242  

PR1  PJD 28th January 2009