Other considerations before you start work
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How good community engagement can help shape a development
The principle guiding community engagement is to ensure that those who will be affected by a development have a genuine opportunity to have their constructive ideas, as well as their opinions taken on board. Community engagement is usually driven by a ‘model’, a framework of principles and approaches that respects the right of community members to be informed and consulted. To do this effectively, community engagement needs to use a range of tools and approaches to work. Here we explore some of the reasons why communities have a negative approach and how good engagement can help counteract this, for both the community and developers’ benefit.
So what is it about development that causes people concern?
Here are three key reasons why a development creates mistrust in communities:
- All development brings about change. Not everyone is comfortable with change, it brings uncertainty; ‘this will affect me, my life, and our local community ‘, ‘I have no power to influence this change’. It is likely that the feeling of being powerless creates the negative attitudes that often greet any development
- It is often said that because Developers/Architects don’t live in the area where this change will happen; ‘they won’t have to live with the consequences’. It’s a point of view that needs to be addressed
- The attitude is that the developer and their team is ‘just in it for the profits’ can also create scepticism within local communities. The advantages that the proposed development and the CIL/S106 monies will bring to the area can be easily overlooked in favour of focusing on the ‘greed of developers’
How can good engagement build better understanding?
- Early engagement makes the process more positive and helps to control rumours and replace fiction with fact
- Share the complete vision – economic, environmental and social advantages, community benefits, social/affordable housing, business opportunities and employment – in short what will the change created by the development bring to the area
- Genuine engagement allows local community to have an input in to the future shape of their local area, but it is important to define the scope of this input rather that creating an unrealistic expectation where communities are then less likely to respond positively to proposals
What can good engagement do for developers?
Early and appropriate engagement with the community can:
- Demonstrate an understanding of local issues that matter to the community and how the scheme has changed to consider or respond to these issues
- Reduce objections and smooth the process of the formal planning application by addressing negative perceptions to change
- Explain planning policy considerations – site allocations, need for specific types of housing, flood risks and population changes, as well as the economic reality of development
Having a website to act as an immediate channel of communication makes positive and measured engagement far more readily achievable. Fair and measured engagement is the key. It’s too easy for people with negative views to dominate an online forum or public meeting, often leaving less assertive community members without a voice.
There is an online toolbox called Consulting You that offers a solution. This flexible web-based toolbox supports the delivery of successful public engagement online. It achieves this by creating a single online resource which shares all the development information and drawings, giving people a chance to comment in the privacy of their homes. But that’s just one advantage of this web service; there are many more well thought out features associated with a custom-built system, which few engagement projects can afford.
For £80 a month with no long-term commitment beyond one month, Consulting You lets you easily create a full website with a backend private dashboard that puts you in control. From viewing who visits the site, updating information in real-time, capturing feedback for easy analysis and downloading editable, easy to read files, charts and reports for the Statement of Community Engagement, this web service provides the answer to online engagement. Collating and analysing feedback lets you demonstrate the levels of community involvement recommended by the Localism Act.
For further information visit consultingyou.co.uk1