Virtual world of Minecraft could help build the future of a Mid Wales town

The virtual online world of Minecraft, played by millions of people around the world, could soon help shape the future infrastructure and building plans of a Mid Wales town.

Minecraft is normally used by online gamers to shape their own virtual worlds for fun. But building design and planning consultants Hughes Architects are in the process of working with councillors and students to use the platform to “build” the future of Newtown in Powys.

The practice has had discussions with the town council and NPTC Group’s college to develop a virtual Newtown where ideas can be “tested” out virtually to help shape its physical future.

“We’d seen and discussed a project with Brecon Beacons National Park Authority where they worked with schoolchildren in Hay-on-Wye to build a virtual town, allowing the young people to help shape ideas and provide an insight for planners,” said Doug Hughes, managing director at Hughes Architects, which has offices in Mid Wales and Cardiff.

“While it might sound a bit crazy, Minecraft is a great platform on which to engage with young people and others in the local community to test ideas and get people involved in architecture and planning.”

A virtual Newtown is currently being developed in Minecraft by Hughes Architects, mapped with all the main town centre buildings and roads developed on the platform.

The next stage will be to get the community involved by developing ideas where they can shape the future of the town.

“They will be able to develop new buildings, recreation areas, roads and housing to see how they fit in with the existing environment and infrastructure. We hope these ideas could, in part, lead to future ideas for developing the town as part of plans by private developers, Powys County Council and others,” added Doug.

“We’re just a year away from having the town’s bypass opened and this is a great way to gain insight into how our town could develop through the ideas and eyes of young people and others in our community with something that’s engaging and exciting.”

Newtown Town Council has received a presentation from Hughes Architects and Brecon Beacons National Park Authority who explained how Minecraft had been used to engage with young people in Hay-on-Wye.

Discussions have also taken place with NPTC Group as part of a project students are undertaking at the college. The students will be able to develop and test ideas on the platform.

The ideas could be used by Powys County Council, Welsh Government, private developers, the town council and others to develop policy and actual projects.

“In addition to helping develop ideas for the future building environment of Newtown we hope it’ll also get more people engaged in the future of Newtown,” said Mr Hughes.

Photos: Newtown Baptist Church on Minecraft and in the real world