Conducting a community consultation is a crucial part of any significant planning application. They help developers get a feel for what the local community and key stakeholders think. Every Local Authority is different in the criteria it sets for these consultations, but all will expect you to carry one out if your application is of a certain size.
Understandably, many developers may feel hesitant at the thought of opening up their project to scrutiny, but it can be a great way to iron out any issues right at the start and tap into local knowledge.
What is a consultation?
A community consultation often forms one part of a wider community engagement programme and can take many forms. Ultimately, it is an opportunity for communities and stakeholders to voice their opinions on planning proposals or other important decisions.
A common forum for developers is to host a community event in-person. Residents and other relevant stakeholders will be briefed on the proposed development and then given the opportunity to ask questions or fill in feedback forms. This allows for in-depth and personalised conversations with individuals, and the opportunity to answer queries and build relationships. Other avenues include digital consultation through webinars and online hubs, and printed packs delivered through letterboxes.
The method chosen and the time and date for the consultations are carefully considered. This is because you need to consider who will be attending, whose feedback you are looking for and whether there will be any obstacles to their participation.
Why should you run a consultation?
Local Council guidance and Government guidelines
UK planning laws often cite the value that early community engagement can give to a planning application. If your project is smaller scale, then a consultation is still beneficial to conduct but not a requirement. For major proposals, developers must submit a Statement of Community Involvement for any application being made.
Depending on where your development is situated, Local Authorities have different criteria for what they’d like when it comes to consultations. One thing is for certain, each one will expect a consultation to happen before a planning application is lodged. Make sure you research and liaise with your Local Authority so you can tick all of their boxes and get your application across the line.
The benefits of consultation
To have the best chance of securing planning permission, it is advisable for developers to conduct a consultation while there is still sufficient time to make changes in response to feedback, ideally near the beginning of the project. Take consultations seriously and put as much effort into planning them as you do with the rest of your planning application. In taking these necessary steps at the beginning, you’re not adding any retrospective work - and potential additional costs - for yourself further down the line.
In almost every instance consultations are beneficial. The benefits will vary from project to project and are dependent on the proposal, the scale of the project and whether it’s contentious.
Whether it’s your first round of consultation or your tenth, the advantages of early engagement can’t be ignored. These can include:
Establishing yourself within the community means you are alerted to any potential issues raised by locals. In doing so during the pre-planning process, you prevent the wasting of time and resources.
You will have access to insightful data from your consultees that will help to shape the project going forward.
Local Authorities may see your project as more appealing, and it can help demonstrate support for specific elements of design.
Reducing the risks during the application process by building relationships, testing the design with the community at an early stage and generating evidence of support for the project. This in turn can increase the chances of approval.
Protecting your reputation locally, regionally, and nationally.
The final development is more likely to be a success for the businesses or residents who move in because it has been designed with their input.
If you’re a developer or an organisation looking for assistance with your planning application or community engagement consultation, we can help. Our team consists of planning specialists who have years of experience in delivering successful community engagement consultations for developments across the South West.
Get in touch today.