Estate Regeneration Ballots: Digital Engagement in a COVID world

When the Mayor of London introduced the requirement for estate regeneration ballots in 2018 effective external communication and resident engagement became even more important.

Just as many housing associations, local authorities and developers were adapting to the new set of challenges and the heightened sense of risk that compulsory ballots presented, Covid-19 came along and made engaging effectively significantly harder.

As anyone who has worked on estate regenerations knows, flash websites and slick digital communications will only go so far in helping you to engage effectively with people for whom English is not their first language, are vulnerable or live day to day with other challenges. While the long-term benefits of regeneration can be obvious, there is the unwelcome disruption for older residents and the understandable fear of change for others. The requirement to ballot will not cease, and neither can communication with your residents if you want to maintain trust in the long term.

At BECG, we are assisting on a number of estate regenerations, and have sustained this activity throughout the pandemic. On estates, like the Douglas Bader Park regeneration in Barnet, where last year the ballot was 75% in favour of regeneration, we have sought to compliment further online engagement with the personal touch which comes with knowing residents and their concerns, and we have kept up to speed on the phone and through online design workshops.

When we began working with Enfield Council on the regeneration of the Joyce and Snell estate just before the start of the pandemic, we did not have as much of an established relationship to draw upon and needed to adapt our approach.

A series of engaging and easy to navigate virtual themed consultations were the centrepiece of the online communications programme. Live chat and video conference functions meant that we were in easy reach of residents wanting to talk to us. Translation services were also added to allow those where English is not their first language to engage. Traditional paper copies of material were sent out to ensure those without online access could still participate.

Our virtual consultations are all backed and linked to a specialist stakeholder engagement database which allows you to build an accurate database of residents, their household needs, whilst gaining a clear picture of the current sentiment within the estate. Our database reports a clear picture of how likely you may be to win, or lose a ballot, and the topic areas that need to be overcome to gain buy-in.

Put simply, there are still ways to effectively engage with residents about estate regeneration even in a pandemic. Not communicating will risk a vacuum into which others will construct an alternative narrative. At BECG we understand how to navigate these challenges and keep your communications on track.  To discuss engaging effectively please email Ben Knock.

Download our Guide on Planning Consultation Communications and find out more about Built to Engage our suite of digital tools to connect with your stakeholders and communities.

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