Black Country goes virtual

Salford University’s ThinkLab has created a virtual reality model of the Black Country in support of an ambitious regeneration project which could win £50m in Lottery funding.

The researchers designed and built a virtual model of the Black Country region for the Black Country Urban Park project, one of four contenders in The People’s £50m Lottery, the results of which will be broadcast on ITV in December 2007.

The competition relies on public votes and, if successful, the project will open up the Black Country region as an urban park, integrating natural and built-up environments with visitor attractions and green spaces.

The University’s virtual reality model gives people a bird’s eye view of the entire region as it currently exists, enabling them to zoom in on specific areas and access demographic data including employment statistics. If enough votes are cast and Black Country win, there will be potential to expand the model to demonstrate how the region’s environment will be transformed.

Prof Terrence Fernando who led the Salford University team said: ‘Our model is the first of its kind and was a key element of the bid, helping to interpret the ambitions plans to regenerate the Black Country.

‘We’re hoping as many people as possible lend their support so we can go on to model the environmental transformation of the Black Country into an urban park.’

Chief Executive of the Black Country Consortium, Sarah Middleton said: ‘Virtual Black Country has been key in helping us to consult with stakeholders and partners about the flagship elements of the Urban Park bid. We are very pleased to working in partnership with Salford University on this cutting edge technology and delighted that colleagues in the North West are supporting us by voting for the project.’