Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Have Your Plans Got Them Talking? Commercial Property WHO'S PLANNING WHAT?

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Have Your Plans Got Them Talking? Commercial Property WHO'S PLANNING WHAT?

Article excerpt

Byline: PETER McEVOY

LAST week I discussed some of the findings in The Saint Consulting Group's annual survey on the public's attitudes to development which showed we are becoming increasingly confident in opposing planning applications.

Consultation in theory is all very well, but how do you go about it in practice?

It is only possible to give a very brief overview; however there are several points to bear in mind.

Consultation can take a variety of methods, such as delivering information leaflets, making presentations or hosting drop-in sessions (or all three).

The first steps of a public consultation on a major neighbourhood regeneration scheme can involve the developer going on a "walkabout" with residents so they can point out the concerns they have to the developer.

Such methods can be very successful, but it is important to note that different groups need to be targeted in different ways to gain the best response.

Young people (who make up around 25% of the population) may respond better using more modern methods of communication such as interactive websites, e-mail or by text message.

Properly done, consultations can highlight the benefit of the consultees' local knowledge.

For example, one large residential development I know of proposed a children's play area tucked away at the rear of the site.

Residents pointed out the potential anti-social and safety issues with such a location and so the play area was placed in the centre of the development and the proposed secluded footpaths removed. Discussions can be easy with the articulate 'professional consultees' who know just how to get their views across.

The challenge, however, is to target the sectors of the community that can often be overlooked, such as the elderly or housebound.

Often the barriers to consultation can be subtle, although perhaps done unintentionally.

An evening public meeting allows those who work during the day to air their views.

But it can be a missed opportunity for some elderly people who may be reluctant to venture out of their homes after dark.

There is also the danger of consultation fatigue when the same groups are sought out again and again. …

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