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Early Engagement is Key


By Nigel Murphy

When it comes to housing, there is one thing that almost everyone agrees on: there is a shortage. It is a need that must be addressed, whether it be through social, affordable, private-rented, apartments or family homes. Over the next ten years, it is estimated that three million new homes will need to be built to meet the demand.

The controversy lies in where these homes are going to be built. There are not sufficient brownfield sites available and when they are, there is often the objection that there is a lack of infrastructure to cope with an increase in population.

In order to overcome the potential objections from the local community, effective and meaningful engagement needs to start as early as possible. Too often communities feel that they are consulted after the decision has been made and the consultation is a mere box-ticking exercise – their views will have no impact.

When developers inform and truly involve local Councillors and communities at an early stage, they get valuable insight into the worries and concerns that are held. Not only does this style of engagement allow the community to voice their concerns, it also gives the developer an opportunity to take them on board and put forward their case of how the development will benefit the local area.

Local engagement is not always easy. A bespoke engagement package is needed that combines the best of traditional methods – face-to-face meetings, exhibitions, and focus groups – with digital tools that enable the developer to reach residents who otherwise may not engage in the process yet still have valid opinions.

For the process to be a genuine constructive dialogue, all stakeholders have to participate sincerely. The more people they engage with at an early stage, the greater the chance a balanced view is obtained and some objections may be mitigated. For this process to succeed, trust needs to be established. This cannot be built by one party alone but need needs the participation of all involved. 

It is worth remembering that local objections are a key factor when a planning committee decides to refuse permission. An appeal is costly and a time-consuming process. Recent figures show that less than 30% of appeals are successful. Tailored early engagement will reduce local opposition and increase the likelihood that the application will succeed.

Nigel is the an Associate Director and the Head of Cratus Manchester, if you would like to get in touch and find out more about the services we offer up North, please contact Nigel. 

Early Engagement is Key