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Categorise and overlay data

A strategic framework is prepared from a layered series of thematic plans, such as landscape, energy/waste/water infrastructure, movement structure, public realm and social infrastructure, which can be combined and compared.

To develop the framework you need to:

  • set the themes that are right for your project
  • identify the relationships between the themes
  • test possibilities.

Overlaying data on the same maps and diagrams can reveal how a place works, and can highlight relationships that would not otherwise have been apparent. For example, for projects with explicit regeneration aims show the relationships between economic indicators, elements of the environmental context such as spatial accessibility, and location of key health and education services. Use diagrams creatively to show priorities and important links.

The way that you categorise data matters as much as the data itself. Be critical, avoid drawing generic conclusions about small amounts of data and test observations and relationships through engagement with local stakeholders.

Develop ways of showing change over time graphically. Social and economic data will generally be a snapshot of a place, but to show patterns and trends you will need to represent past, present and projected future conditions. For example, mapping patterns of employment in a place over time shows which areas have been more or less affected by changes in the national and local economy. It therefore highlights where and how the intervention proposed in your project might have an impact.

Relating distribution and types of employment to settlement patterns and movement structure can be particularly important for understanding how a place functions. Mapping patterns such as travel-to-work can help to reveal the role and function of settlements: which direction are most people moving when they travel between settlements or areas for work? How many people? Have the patterns shifted over time? What mode of transport do they use? Knowing whether a place is a dormitory settlement or is attracting workers from elsewhere is important for determining what kind of future it could have.

Another piece of mapping that can be very revealing is overlaying environmental data, as it relates to quality or vulnerability to change, against social and economic data. If you have a situation where vulnerable communities live in areas of poor environmental quality, they stand to be harder hit by climatic events or they will incur more expense in adapting properties for heating or cooling, as appropriate. You need to be able to recognise these as issues at the strategic framework stage so that you can test later on whether emerging options are addressing them well.