The successful launch of the Stretton Neighbourhood Plan has just taken place. And if you view the photos what a success this was.
People through the door, numerous comments, new information, and dialogue opened, things to check, and potential new volunteers.
So how did we and Stretton parish council do it? Below are ten key things used in Stretton to make engagement and consultation on the neighbourhood plan a success.
- Good Organisation – it may sound obvious, but this is a must. Decide in advance what you are doing, who is doing it, what materials you need, and how you will make a record of what was said and discussed.
- Willing, enthusiastic and well-briefed volunteers– it is your plan so make sure that you have well-briefed, enthusiastic volunteers. People who know the area, who can immediately build a rapport with local people, but, importantly can explain more about neighbourhood planning.
- Time and place– this may seem obvious but think hard about where you hold events (how big are they, how do people get there, are there other things going on etc.); and the timing of your event – when is the best time to get people to come to you and not all the other things they will want and have to do.
- Have something to say – again it may sound obvious, but make sure you have something to say, and the right materials to get this across. People expect to see something, and you want them to start to think and talk about the future of their area. For this you need words, pictures, drawings and maps to engage in debate.
- Publicise – your event. Press releases, local papers like this sort of thing, send them a photo, use existing leaflets (e.g. church newsletters), schools, the more things you do the more likelihood you have of people turning out.
- Controversy – is there another issue making news in the area? Causing controversy or making people ask questions – don’t be afraid of tackling such issues if it stirring up feeling it is important and is the type of thing people feel strongly about in terms of where they live. In Stretton cutting of trees on one of the parishes open spaces, and new plans to plant street trees were causing disquiet locally. So the parish council got hold of the information and got ready to answer people’s questions so they could tell people what was going on. Key point, if you do this – make sure you are well briefed and can answer questions, or tell people where to go for more information.
- Dialogue – how many consultations do you know of, especially held by councils and developers, that leave you feeling frustrated, patronised and powerless? Most? Well, with neighbourhood planning you are in charge – your ambition should be to “do unto others as you would as you would have them do to you”. To do this find ways of entering in to a dialogue, ways of ensuring people can influence your plan: ways in which people can ask questions and receive feedback; ways in which they can be involved in making decisions. Never think just preparing fancy graphics and maps and just asking “what do you think?”, “do you support this?” is a replacement for real debate and dialogue – this is the hallmark of poor consultation, going through the motions and ticking boxes.
- Invite other organisations and people – your neighbourhood plan needs partners – invite the council, the highway authority, key local decision makers, developers, and landowners. In preparing your plan you need to engage these people.
- Keep good records – as you prepare your plan you will have to prepare a Consultation Statement. For this you must keep good records: details of your publicity materials; who attended what event; what people said; and what you intend to do about it.
- Tea and biscuits – people are taking the trouble to come out to see you and your plan. At least offer them a brew and a biscuit. And what better way to get people to stop and talk. And if the budget stretches to it, and the time and place is right, go further and offer food. There is nothing like food to bring people together and get them talking.
Simple? Obvious? In many ways yes, but just think how many big organisations get these things wrong? Consulting on fancy drawings and proposals that are already set in stone and cannot be changed. Don’t make the same mistake.
Do you need to engage people on your neighbourhood plan? Need the help of award winning experts? Call Louise on 01282 872570, or email, to discuss how we can help you engage your local community on the development of their neighbourhood plan.