Getting the public on-side, online

Alconbury Weald is a new development from Urban&Civic (the team behind the Olympic Village and Westfield). They are transforming a 1,420 acre site in Cambridgeshire into a place for working, living, learning and leisure, creating 8,000 jobs and 5,000 homes. The website had four distinct functions:

Convey how unique Alconbury Weald is
Alconbury is a special place — not only in scale, but also in heritage and Urban&Civic have underlined that with an unusual planning process that has involved the community at every stage. Our job was to convey how distinctive Alconbury is and create a website to reflect its individuality. Property websites can be formulaic so we wanted to design something different; using horizontal scale and movement where possible to echo Alconbury’s physical shapes and its timeline, abstract images to create an aspirational sense of place, and a bold infographic style to communicate the impressive numbers behind the plans.

Professional tools to facilitate the planning process
A primary reason for the website was to aid the planning process and provide the decision-makers with the information they need in the format they need it in. We decided that downloads were the best way to achieve this due to the weight of information and how quickly it was required, so we created a simple and searchable library system where users can quickly find documents by category and review top-line details before they start the download process.

Include the community
Urban&Civic have reached out to the community through events, research and focus groups at every stage and have used the feedback to develop their plans. The website needed to reflect this approach by communicating the future benefits of the site (therefore encouraging support for the planning process), keeping the community informed of progress, and providing a place to promote news and events. Once the development is underway, the website will also become the community hub — with forums, noticeboards and by promoting community activity.

A solid basis on which to build
The current Alconbury website is phase one of an ongoing project — as the development evolves, so will the website. It needs to be scalable so we built it on the flexible Drupal framework to benefit from modules that evolve and grow as the website does, meaning future additions will be as cost effective and forward-thinking as possible.