Large  industrial  projects  can  have  significant  impact  on  the  population  and  workforce  in  small  communities,  often  requiring them  to  revisit  local  plans  and  adapt  their  services,  such  as  healthcare  and  education,  to  match  the  changing  needs.  The REGINA  Demographic  Foresight  Model  (DFM)  allows  local  planners  to  explore  the  different  population  scenarios  that  may arise  in  relation  to  resource-based  industrial  development  projects.  


Turning the tide in Storuman

The  REGINA  DFM  shows  the  long-term  impacts  of  socio-economic  change  in  small  communities,  for  instance  the  opening of  a  mine  or  new  aquaculture  projects.  It  allows  local  planners  to  predict  how  many  people  will  relocate  to  the  community for  new  jobs,or  leave  if  an  industry  closes  down,  and  then  visualises  the  impact  on  the  size  and  composition  of  the  local population.  

In  Storuman  in  Swedish  Lapland,  the  REGINA  DFM  has  been  used  to  study  the  impacts  of  a  large  gold  mining  project, which  is  currently  undergoing  a  feasibility  study.  Situated  just  outside  Storuman,  the  mine  is  expected  to  attract  around  140 people  to  the  municipality,  which  has  a  population  of  6,000.  This  is  a  noteworthy  increase,  especially  in  light  of  the  fact that  the  population  decreased  by  56  people  in  2015-2016,    but  grew  by  one  person  in  2014  and  another  three  people  in 2017.


“Before  that,  our  population  decreased  by  around  50  people  per  year,"  says  Jimmy  Lindberg,  Strategist  at  Storuman Municipality.  “The  DFM  has  enabled  us  to  visualise  what  needs  to  be  done  to change  the  trend  and  stabilise  or  increase the  population.  While  the  new  mine  would  be  a  big  boost,  we  would  need  several  similar  scenarios  to  reverse  the  trend.”

Proactive planning for demographic change

Storuman has been involved in the planning of various large-scale industrial development projects, including mining, hydroelectric power plants and wind farms, but is nevertheless facing many of the challenges that are common to rural towns all around the world. Young people are leaving to find education and jobs, and there is a shortage of attractive housing for new residents as building costs exceed the market value of property in the area.

“The REGINA DFM has helped us identify the most important demographic issues which need to be addressed,” says Karina Umander, local project manager for the REGINA project. “Initiatives to stimulate the local business environment have been launched and an in-migration service has been established to make it easier to move to the municipality and find housing, employment and leisure activities.”

"The DFM has enabled us to visualise what needs to be done to change the trend and stabilise or increase the population."

“A big mine is not only labour intensive, it also affects the municipality in many ways,” Umander continues. “The REGINA DFM helps ensure that everyone; the municipality, the planning department and various community groups and organisations, have correct information to base further actions on.”

In addition, Lindberg stresses the value of being proactive when planning for new industrial activity.

“With the REGINA tools, this doesn’t have to be costly, but it can certainly be of great value at a later stage,” he says. “Timely planning of areas for housing, infrastructure and industry allows us to react faster when we succeed in attracting large projects to the area.” 

"The DFM has enabled us to visualise what needs to be done to change the trend and stabilise or increase the population."


Diving into the wider impact on the community

In Scotland, the REGINA DFM has been used to address a different situation, namely the closure of the nuclear power complex in Dounreay, which was established in the 1950’s. It has since been the largest single employer in the area, employing around 1,500 people.

“The closure of the Douenray nuclear power plant will have a profound impact on the local economy,” says Magnus Davidson, researcher at the University of Highlands and Islands Environmental Research Institute.

The decommissioning process, including the dismantling of three nuclear reactors, is scheduled for completion by the early 2030’s, but according to Davidson the process is likely to stretch past the early 2030’s to later in the decade. The REGINA DFM has provided a clear visual overview of the different scenarios.

“Using the Demographic Foresight Model has allowed us to model the official line, in which the decommission is finished by 2030. Using local knowledge and data, we then went on to explore the scenarios that we consider more realistic in terms of when these labour changes will occur.”

According to Davidson, it is important to keep in mind that the much-reduced employment numbers are only part of the full story. The workers also have families and children, which magnifies the impact on the community.

“The REGINA DFM enables you to make assumptions about issues such as school numbers and whether or not the healthcare system can maintain the same level of service. It provides the data necessary to explain the full story about the wider impact on the community.”

The REGINA DFM is one of three key planning resources that were developed as part of the REGINA Local Smart Specialisation Strategy – LS3. The aim is to empower small and remote communities by giving them planning tools to better deal with the introduction of large-scale resource-based industrial projects or for that matter with the socio-economic change following the closure of an important local industry.