Newsletter No 3 October 2012

Map-based decision support tools for collaborative land use planning

spacetxt2The aim of this project was to develop a methodology that includes tools to facilitate collaborative work around digital maps and that can be implemented in policy workshops at different stages of a planning process. The proposed methodology comprised a set of tools, a hardware instrument called ‘the Touch table’ and a series of face-to-face policy workshops. The main rationale of the approach was that specific tools can be linked via a GIS to the Touch table, evaluated and then implemented in workshops as part of a planning process. The methodology was applied to two different planning processes: 1) the integrated readjustment of land use functions for Bodegraven, a peat-meadow polder in the Netherlands; and 2) the collaborative spatial allocation of sites for tidal renewable energy off the Mull of Kintyre, Scotland.

The Touch table is a large touch-sensitive screen that worked as a common map interface to support multi-stakeholder dialogue and user-map-tool interaction. The tools were developed to support three types of planning activities, respectively: communication, spatial evaluation and spatial allocation. Communication was supported with drawing tools. Spatial evaluation was supported using a combination of GIS, multicriteria analysis (MCA), which allowed for the integration of stakeholder knowledge for assessing land use plans. Spatial allocation was supported using a MCA-based negotiation tool that made explicit trade-offs between objectives to facilitate the collaborative allocation of land use. The workshops were categorized into a sequence of three types, namely design, analysis and negotiation. In a design workshop, stakeholders used the drawing tools on the Touch table to transfer and process local knowledge. In an analysis workshop, stakeholders used the spatial evaluation tools to combine different types of expert knowledge and generate feedback for assessing land use scenarios. In a negotiation workshop, stakeholders used spatial allocation tools collectively on the Touch table to reach a consensus land use plan.

The project included an empirical study to analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the developed map-based tools. The tools were first evaluated systematically using a series of controlled experiments with MSc students, who were asked to use the tools and perform specific individual and group planning tasks. Data on the responses of the participants were collected through questionnaires, observer notes, video film and MCA scores. The analysis focused on three aspects of effectiveness: usefulness of the tools; clarity of tool information; and impact on decisions. From the experiments, it was clear that the cognitive effort related to the volume and format of information is a critical issue in spatial decision support. This held true for both the level of detail per item of information and the amount of information to be supplied to the participants.

The final part of the project involved the practical implementation of the methodology in two case studies. The first case study involved three interconnected planning workshops conducted with stakeholders of the Bodegraven polder. Results from surveys conducted at the end of each workshop indicated that participants found the tools appropriate for a workshop setting. It was concluded that digital maps can be used effectively to support three different types of workshops that are a part of an ongoing land use planning process. Important aspects in the design of the workshops included the selection of participants, level of detail and complexity of spatial information provided and a balanced formulation of workshop assignments.

Figure 2. From dissertation showing the steps to create a stakeholder value map for fisheries on the Touch table: the base value map (a), areas oemptyf importance (b) and the re-valued map (c).

The second case study involved two workshops conducted in an area off the Mull of Kintyre with high conflict potential due to offshore renewable energy development. In the workshops, stakeholders were invited to work together and carry out planning tasks using the tools implemented in the Touch table. The first workshop focused on the mapping of the values of the stakeholders involved; the second workshop on identifying the best compromise locations for the tidal devices. The tools that were developed to support the planning process of the Bodegraven polder were adapted to suit the sea-use problem. A value mapping tool combined regional attributes with local knowledge to form stakeholder value maps. A negotiation support tool used these value maps to support stakeholders in finding the optimal location for tidal energy devices within the proposed energy site. Although participants had little or no experience with this method of decision support, they engaged easily with the process and were satisfied with the workshop results.

The major conclusion from these two applications is that the tools-Touch table- workshop integration proposed in the methodology proved to be a valuable means for communication, integration of stakeholder knowledge and consensus building at different stages of a planning process. Particularly, the Touch table proved to be not only an attractive ‘gadget’ but actually facilitated tasks involving small group collaboration, particularly dialogue and discussion around maps between different types of stakeholders for the three types of workshops.

Gustavo Arciniegas has conducted research on this subject for his PhD thesis. His public defence is scheduled on November 19th at 13:45.


Publications on which this thesis is based

Arciniegas, G.A., Janssen, R., 2012. Spatial decision support for collaborative land use planning workshops. Landscape and Urban Planning 107(2012), 332-342.

Arciniegas, G.A., Janssen, R., Omtzigt, N., 2011. Map-based multicriteria analysis to support interactive land use allocation. International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 25(12), 1931-1947.

Arciniegas, G.A., Janssen, R., Rietveld, P., 2012. Effectiveness of collaborative decision support tools: results of an experiment. Environmental modelling & Software (2012), doi:10.1016/j.envsoft.2012.02.021.

Janssen, R., Arciniegas, G.A., Alexander, K.A. Decision support for collaborative marine spatial planning: identifying potential sites for tidal energy devices around the mull of Kintyre, Scotland deploying tidal devices around the Mull of Kintyre. Submitted to Regional Environmental Change.

Janssen, R., Arciniegas, G.A., Verhoeven, J.T.A., 2012. Spatial evaluation of ecological qualities to support interactive land use planning. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design. In Press, Corrected Proof.

Alexander, K.A., Janssen, R., Arciniegas, G.A., O'Higgins, T.G., Eikelboom, T., Wilding, T.A., 2012. Interactive Marine Spatial Planning: Siting tidal energy arrays around the Mull of Kintyre. PLos ONE, 7(1): e30031. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030031.