As a developer you’ll want to have the best possible relationships with local authorities, landowners and local residents near to (and possibly even occupying) the site you want to develop.
This blog will help you do this.
What is public consultation?
It’s a process to gather the opinions of relevant parties in relation to the planning application you want to make.
These views will then be included in your application.
Do this correctly and you will significantly increase the likelihood of getting a ‘yes’.
In July 2018 the National Planning Policy Framework was revised by the Government in relation in particular, to housing developments.
It now includes a requirement for developers to undertake public consultation at an early stage.
The indication is, that if you have undertaken effective public consultation, this will put you a step ahead.
Consultation can include simply surveying local people in and around a site or it can be a detailed and lengthy exercise including accessing hard to reach groups (Travellers, for example) and utilising a variety of channels and pubic events to gather opinion.
The core aim with any consultation is to give people the facts.
Once they have all the background, they will then have ‘ownership’ and be able to respond in an involved and reasonable way.
The most important thing to understand, is that as a developer, you should not go into this process aiming to change people’s minds.
It is not a PR exercise.
Instead, because the majority of new developments will be met with some level of objection, your aim is to ensure that everyone involved can input an informed and balanced opinion.
Consultation also gives you the opportunity to gather and include positive views.
How to do it
An effective public consultation campaign should involve the developer (or a consultant acting on their behalf) talking to residents on a one-to-one basis.
This is likely to include gathering the views of not just local residents but also Councillors/ parish council members and local residents’ organisations/ neighbourhood groups.
The most common starting point is to create a questionnaire for people to fill in and this can be distributed/ hand-delivered, along with a letter of introduction.
Within your questionnaire it’s a good idea to give ‘yes/ no’ or ‘agree with/ strongly disagree with’ options as well as examples and scenarios that people can comment on.
We advise keeping this fairly brief with a maximum of five of six questions or sections.
Questionnaires can also be filled in online.
It is also very likely that a consultation will involve setting up an event or events, as well as a social media presence.
When it comes to public events, these may take place in a local village hall, a library, a local authority meeting room, in an empty shop or in some other easy to access public venue.
Typically, these are afternoon-into-evening, open sessions.
What else may be included?
It is always beneficial to help people understand why a site is being considered and give them the background to the development.
Showing people how a development fits into the national picture also helps with context and understanding.
A key element may be highlighting a number of different options and seeing which one most people prefer.
It’s also a good idea to give individuals the opportunity to submit names, addresses, email details, phone numbers, etc., if they would like to be further involved and consulted.
What is the benefit?
The aim here is to use the feedback gathered to create a Statement of Community Involvement (SCI).
A SCI is a detailed and transparent document (with for example graphics/ pie charts and images) which you submit as a part of your planning application.
It shows you have gathered local views and opinions and then incorporated them.
For example, issues such as change of landscape view/ overshadowing/ living conditions and character and appearance; whilst these are fundamental elements in a planning application, they are all things that can be changed and adapted with public involvement.
Your proposal will therefore, already have public input, ownership and acceptance.
Doing this is always good practise and advantageous and if you are aiming to build 20 or more units, it is a requirement.
Here at RCA we recommend public consultation for any development of eight units or more.
RCA can help
RCA can advise you on what should be included and we can pick up and run a full public consultation process for you.
Most importantly we come to this from a planning expertise point of view rather than a PR and marketing point of view.
If you would like to talk to RCA Regeneration about how we can help please call 01905 887686 or email firstname.lastname@example.org