Running a community planning consultation before a planning application is vital for all developments, big or small, residential or commercial. Ensuring this is conducted properly is vital for building trust with your neighbours, the council, and safeguarding your reputation.
Beyond this, benefiting from the community’s local knowledge at an early stage can result in a better design proposal and improve the chances of the application receiving permission from the council.
Although each Local Authority will have different criteria for consulting the community, all will have an expectation that this is conducted before a planning application is lodged.
Don’t know where to start? Here are five top tips on how to make sure your community consultation runs smoothly.
1. Consider consultation at the start of the design process
Don’t leave the consultation as an afterthought, make sure it is woven into your design timeline right from the beginning. This makes sure you are engaging at the right time, and at a point when the local community are still able to have their feedback incorporated into the proposals.
2. Do your research on who to speak to
Make sure you understand the local area, and who you should be speaking to about your project. People you should think about contacting include immediate neighbours, local councillors, businesses, and local groups such as residents’ associations.
3. Use a variety of communication methods
There are a variety of tools at your disposal to ensure people have the opportunity to share their views. That includes letter drops, websites, in-person events, one-on-one meetings, pop-up events and public meetings. You should make sure that you adopt a variety of methods which best suit the community in which you are working. Remember you can always piggyback on existing events going on in the area.
4. Host events which suit the local community
In-person events are still the mainstay of any consultation process (webinars temporarily replaced these during the pandemic) so getting this right is crucial. Make sure to give people a minimum of 7 days’ notice and avoid public holidays and school holidays if you can. You should have more than one event, held at different times of the day, so people who work or have children can attend.
5. Set expectations for the consultation process
Be clear about the stage of the design process, and what people can input into. For example, if you decided to provide a community garden, you can canvass for views on the type of planting for the area or look to bring together a community gardening project during its creation. It’s always better to be upfront about where there are fixed elements of design to avoid disappointment.
Finally, remember that communication with local stakeholders should not stop after a consultation. Residents often want to be kept up to date on when the application is lodged and when they can expect to see construction on-site. Making sure you keep them informed is key for an enduring and positive relationship.
DCA PR are experts at delivering community consultation for developments across the South West. If you need assistance with hosting a consultation, get in touch today.