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UK Good Practice Guide on Public Engagement in Planning

In light of the recent call for input regarding public participation best practices, it’s always interesting to compare how that question is being answered abroad.

Here’s a 2010 document by Planning Aid England, which is part of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), the UK’s “leading planning body for spatial, sustainable, integrative and inclusive planning”: Good Practice Guide to Public Engagement in Development Schemes (PDF)

For developers, communities and decision makers, one of the biggest challenges in taking forward a development scheme is to ensure that public engagement is undertaken in a way which is meaningful, inclusive and brings benefits for all involved.

This guide is intended to provide practical advice for all those involved in public engagement in development schemes which require planning consent. It is illustrated by real examples of good practice and provides information and assistance to those planning, engaging in, or assessing community consultation.

The guide lists the following eight principles:

  • Research and analysis – explore the context, history, different communities and groups in the area who may affected. Identify what will motivate people, what else is happening in the area, establish if it is connected and if so consider the potential to share events. Establish the goals – what are the benefits of engaging with communities and how will these be realised?
  • Learn from the process – identify what people think of the way the consultation has worked. What could be done better, what else needs to be done, was it a balanced and inclusive process. Identify the lessons learned and take these forward into other projects.
  • Continuing to engage – Has feedback been given and how will the relationships developed be continued into the construction and operational phases of a development project?
  • Monitor and evaluate – monitor engagement and use the results to identify gaps and inform actions to widen the process and ensure a balanced community response is achieved. Consider the comments received and how they can be taken into account in the design – is further engagement required?
  • Relationship building, knowledge and skills – develop links with key groups and individuals who can assist and advise on what matters in the area. Consider how existing community groups, networks and representatives might be involved, what barriers might exist and what help might be needed to build the capacity to engage.
  • Communications – ensure that the information provided is clear, accessible and sufficient to tell people what they want to know, and to allow them to decide whether to engage. Be clear about what is fixed and why, and what is ‘up for debate’. Check that mechanisms are in place to allow information to flow in all directions and that response dates are clear.
  • Timing – be realistic, allow sufficient time to achieve the goals set at the start. Provide a clear timetable for the project identifying consultation opportunities. Ensure engagement takes place when things can be changed and when it is cost effective to do so. Allow sufficient time for considered and informed response. How and when will feedback be provided?
  • Inclusive – ensure under represented individuals and groups are included and that they have an equal opportunity to be heard. Be clear when making changes that these do not respond to a vociferous minority but are a response to a wider community view.

The “Delivering Good Practice” FAQ at the end seems quite useful, too, to help market public participation to planners, developers and the public.

The guide has been endorsed by IAP2 UK/Ireland.

Hat tip: IAP2 via Twitter.

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