Alongside all the designs for the redevelopment of the Phoenix Industrial Estate in Lewes was a 3D printed model created by youngsters using one of the most popular computer games of recent times.

Now the team behind that community project doing the same with the London Road redevelopment scheme as part of Brighton Digital Festival.

BlockBuilders was the brainchild of student Joe Palmer, who graduated from the University Of Brighton's Design And Craft course earlier this year.

He developed it in association with Community 21, the University Of Brighton and Action In Rural Sussex’s Nominet Trust-funded project to get young people involved in community design and neighbourhood planning.

“There are lots of negative stereotypes,” says Palmer.

“When you talk to the kids they say older people don't listen. From my experience though adults are interested in what kids have to say, it's just about how you get that information out there.

“BlockBuilders is a way of breaking down the barrier, and that's what we are aiming to do, to use it as a communication tool.”

The decision to use Minecraft as the basis for the BlockBuilders sessions in Lewes was a eureka moment.

“Using other programmes to do a similar process always meant there was a high learning curve for the children,” says Palmer.

“They were already experts in Minecraft and were able to communicate with each other through that process.”

With the original sessions the BlockBuilders tackled the Phoenix Industrial Estate in its entirety, talking about what the children wanted to see in the space. Palmer was pleasantly surprised with the results.

“We all assumed they would want skate parks and cinemas and things like that,” says Palmer.

“They integrated clean energy with the housing which we didn't expect - which was maybe a bit stereotypical of us.

“We weren't trying to force them into decisions - we gave them scope to come up with new and interesting stuff.”

The Lewes sessions all began with activities devised by PhD student Kelly Duggan to help the children come up with ideas.

The sessions also covered topical issues including the need for affordable housing.

“They all agreed it was a useful thing and put a lot of time into building affordable housing into the design,” says Palmer.

“They weren't just doing it for the sake of it.”

The Brighton sessions will be slightly retrospective, as work has already begun on the redevelopment of London Road.

Rather than looking at the whole scheme each session will look at a different section, meaning each session will be different for any child wanting to go to all six.

“It's about building a community of children where they can meet up and talk to each other,” says Palmer.

“We have a server set up so the children can come back and add to it in their spare time using their own Minecraft programme.”

BlockBuilders is also working on additional aspects to the sesssions, from applying for funding to create more 3D models to using Oculus Rift virtual reality technology so the young builders can feel like they are walking around what they have created.

Palmer is now working with fellow University Of Brighton graduate Megan Leckie –yesterday announced as a guest at this year’s TEDxBrighton on Friday, October 31 - to turn BlockBuilders into a social enterprise.

The plan is to set up pop-up shops to run sessions in areas undergoing redevelopment, or integrate the idea into the classroom, to give young people more of a voice in local democracy.

“We are aiming to turn it into an education tool in citizenship,” says Palmer.

“Part of the worry factor concerning gaming is a lot of computer games are violent.

“The beauty of Minecraft is it's a game about building stuff. By twisting it a little it means the children are engaged in something that adults would love.”