It’s that time of year…. Here are twelve seasonal do’s and don’ts for happier community engagement
1. Do be inclusive – research your audience widely: NPP and residents groups are important but don’t ignore faith communities, older people and ethnic groups, local businesses – they all have points of view. Make sure the planning officer knows what you’re doing.
2. Do demonstrate you respect the people and the area: naturally people can be uncomfortable with change. Flag yourself up as the community contact as soon as you can. Let people know there will be a formal inclusive engagement to follow. Share some simple key facts: the name of the developer who owns the site, have they built locally, which reports are being prepared, what are the outline timescales, how will consultation will be conducted, who it will include.
3. Do make sure people know about the engagement; press notices, site notices, leaflets, liaison with local councillors, NPPs, Resident Groups, web links, web sites.
4. Do highlight issues you know will be at the forefront of people’s minds and concerns. Let them know you and/or your client have some sympathy and understanding of the community’s concerns
5. Don’t assume everyone knows what how to take part in community engagement. They don’t. Knowing what’s expected of them helps people feel in control.
6. Do share development information in a local context, Understand and demonstrate how it could improve the future of the area.
7. Do set clear timescales tell people how to get involved and how to comment and feedback thoughts and concerns. Provide plenty of opportunities to respond – online, by post, by phone, at events.
8. Do use the research and engagement to improve the development. Companies have used R and D for years to improve products, why is development any different?
9. Do demonstrate how comments and suggestions have been used to shape the development. If helped share ideas can’t be used, explain why. Share this information with all the participants and groups.
10. Do keep people updated throughout the process and be transparent, once the Planning Application is registered, share the application number and a link.
11. Do monitor comments on the planning portal an get involved if something is misrepresented.
12. Don’t stop liaising once the application is Approved. Keep people up to date with what is happening on site – it’s their environment and they deserve to be kept informed.