Those who have read “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” will know that the book starts with our hero Arthur lying in front of a bulldozer, trying to prevent his house being knocked down to make way for a bypass.
The first he heard of it was when a workman arrived at the door the previous day.
Fans of Douglas Adams’ work will know that the surprise arrival of the Vogon constructor fleet to clear the way for a hyperspace express route is the beginning of the end of the world. The plans had been on display in the local planning department, just a few light years away. If only someone had bothered to pop down for a look, something could have been done…
How different it might have been had the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) been in existence.
In my former career as a journalist I reported on numerous anti-development campaigns which, according to protesters had been prompted by planning applications being lodged “completely out of the blue”.
These can be very public battles, with developers on one side and local people on the other and, very often, a council is stuck somewhere in the middle. Local papers will, almost always, side with the protesters to create a David and Goliath story.
Now, as communications specialists supporting a range of development projects, we devise and deliver, in advance of a planning application, programmes of community and stakeholder consultation and engagement on behalf of clients. Not only is this “best practice”, according to the NPPF, it makes perfect sense. The more issues worked out before an application is lodged, the more likely it will be approved, in less time.
Good communications, planned well in advance of a formal planning application, are absolutely vital to any development proposal.
Explaining the proposals and options thoroughly and taking time to listen to the opinions and suggestions of a community will usually help to shape a more “acceptable” set of proposals that have a smoother journey through the planning process.
We’re all human which means that most of us are suspicious of change and of things we don’t fully understand so it’s well worthwhile making time to talk to your public and your stakeholders.
If you’re planning a planning application, we have a 3 point PR plan:
- Explain your vision
- Listen to feedback
- Shape your proposals accordingly