How to raise community support for planning proposals
It’s no secret that many planning proposals are often met with trepidation by communities across Scotland.
As public affairs consultants, Orbit Communications knows from experience that in an increasingly challenging development environment, community engagement is as integral to the planning process as planning proposals themselves.
What some forget – and sometimes even the communities themselves overlook – is that planning permissions are never a sure thing. They operate in a decision triangle comprising residents, developers and other key stakeholders.
A feeling of exclusion and alienation are the biggest hurdles for communities when they’re dealing with a project. Having your team at community-facing events which have been well-advertised in advance not only allows questions but gives a critical platform for answers and ensures the community shape proposals. Looking at appropriate venues that have a high public footfall as well as exploring other mechanisms to engage with the public are critical.
Social media and the Internet are no longer a novelty opt-in, but a must. Developers need a concrete social media strategy that allows them to engage with local communities, ensuring the latter are informed and able to shape proposals. It also needs to recognise that people will talk and more often they will talk about things they don’t like.
A community web page is an absolute requirement. Making your plans as transparent as possible might sound cliched, but it’s necessary. Add in a FAQs section addressing recurring points and questions raised. Not only does this save time, but it shows the community that you understand their concerns.
Engagement with community councils is only a legal requirement for major applications, but as with the local community should be standard. Every opportunity to engage with politicians, community leaders and the local community is another chance to articulate why your project is adding value to an area. And even more importantly, they have the chance critically to shape these proposals.
As with everything, nothing will ever be universally loved and agreed on. If you begin on that premise, you will find that opportunities to address problems are actually opportunities to discuss virtues, to reflect on feedback, and cement positive relationships that achieve a well-regarded set of planning proposals.