Through the use of a social analytics platform, Melbourne-based urban strategists Hatch RobertsDay has been able to give an in-depth analysis of Sydney’s Castle Hill without physically visiting the suburb.

Utilising Neighbourlytics, a program that allows customers to gain dynamic insights into urban life – how places are used, occupied, experienced and valued – the strategists developed a place strategy for the north-west Sydney suburb’s town centre, identifying the culture, heritage, community profile and urban life of the suburb and provide strategic planning recommendations to meet the needs of the local community. 

Neighbourlytics works through analysing a number of digital data sources, including map based information, business and community pages, rating and reviews and publicly available images, to unlock new opportunities to see a neighbourhood through locals’ eyes. It opens up a wealth of opportunities for companies to ‘visit’ sites without being there in person, if border restrictions and lockdowns become a regular occurrence.

Louise Ford, Hatch RobertsDay’s Melbourne Place Strategist, says the company saw an opportunity to carry out its work with Neighbourlytics in spite of being able to travel to Castle Hill.

“Although being able to physically be on site is always our preferred option, while both our Melbourne and Sydney teams were in lockdown and unable to travel, Neighbourlytics’ data allowed us to dive deeper into the characteristics of Castle Hill. On-site assessments are still necessary when possible, however remote assessments should be part of the toolbox as it provides evidence-based data to support our insights,” she says.

“Using Neighbourlytics’ data, we investigated areas of opportunity within the locality in categories that included Business and Services, Community Strengths such as health and wellness spaces and education, Destination Appeal such as retail spaces, and Physical Assets such as parks. This added exceptional value to our existing data sources, which included physical Geographic Information System (GIS) data and other demographic data.”

The work undertaken by the urban strategists revealed Castle Hill residents travel to the centre for health, wellness and retail activities, as opposed to purchasing food and beverage options. Hatch RobertsDay came to the conclusion that the urban centre runs the risk of becoming a single use destination where people get in, get their shopping done, and then get out again. The limited range of accommodation, arts and culture on offer within the centre showed a lack of tourism and reasons for people to visit the centre. As a result, the team offered a recommendation to include hotel options in the future, and the need to enhance the evening offering to position Castle Hill as an overnight stay destination, which may kick start its life as a local tourist destination.

“Evidence-based data helps our Place team to go beyond the stereotypes, reputation and physical form of a place, to instead understand the nuances of the community, and reveal what elements are necessary to deliver a project with real social value. The recommendations we delivered in this project will help Castle Hill to evolve as a place for the local community, tourists and businesses to thrive,” continues Ford.

Jessica Christiansen-Franks, Founding Director of Neighbourlytics, says the platform aims to bridge the gap for strategists with data to better understand the makeup of certain areas if they are unable to access them physically due to COVID-19.

“Most place strategies are made without a solid evidence base. There is always data about the physical environment, but when it comes to the social context a lot of the information is subjective and observational. It’s easy for consultancies and developers to make assumptions and not really understand the true context, which is where Neighbourlytics comes in, providing much needed insight and evidence for better decision making.

The Castle Hill project is the first of three in a pilot trial between Hatch RobertsDay and Neighbourlytics, with the next two scheduled to take place in Perth.


Image: Wikipedia Commons