Finding and vocalising support
They used to be called “hard to reach” groups but nowadays the more frequently used term is “seldom heard” – and this is a much better fit. Because often the least seldom heard group is the silent majority. And this group contains all those people who either support a proposed development or at least have no worries about what is proposed.
It is worth recapping from a previous briefing:
Planning and politics are inextricably linked.
Planning officers will generally look at a proposal from a planning perspective and make recommendations on this basis – never forgetting that personal views can play a role.
Politicians on the other hand are there to represent the views of the people who elected them. So if it appears that a community totally opposes a planning development, local councillors may well see it as their job to represent that view and work to have the application turned down.
The problem is when a vocal minority creates the impression of mass objection when in reality most people are supportive or at least neutral. How can this happen?
Well, objectors object – they make themselves heard – loudly and constantly. Supporters on the other hand tend to be silent.
As a consequence, vocal minority groups can have a disproportionate influence on planning decisions. And this can cause delay and be very costly not just for the developer but also the local planning authority.
For the democratic process to work well, it is vitally important that politicians at all levels understand the views of the wider community and not just those of a vocal minority.
The starting point is all about a way of thinking. Many developers shy away from promoting their developments in favour of simply consulting – consulting equals providing information and answering questions. If only objectors had the same mind set. No, they assemble all the arguments against the development and use every channel available to get their message across – including a very hungry and receptive media.
Change the rules – start by understanding that very often most people are supportive or at least neutral towards a development – and then put measures in place to vocalise the silent majority. Put simply positively promote your development.
From a practical perspective finding support begins with in depth research to fully understand the target audience leading to a consultation programme tailored to engage with and encourage response from all sectors of the community and all perspectives. This does take time and effort but a positive consultation outcome can shorten planning timeframes or even avoid a public inquiry.
Looking for support can be surprisingly easy – consider:
- Local businesses interested in contract opportunities
- People interested in job opportunities
- Local groups that might benefit in some way
- Interest groups that are fundamentally supportive of your type of development
Let’s not be shy. Having found supporters ask them to:
- Write a support letter to the LPA
- Encourage others to write in support to the LPA
- Write to their political representatives
- Write to the local newspapers
- Even form a support group
Cost Benefit Analysis
And what is the benefit of promoting a contentious development? Easy – the prospect of avoiding a public inquiry with all its cost and time implications.
Want to Know More?
For more information on any of the topics in Navigating Consultation or if you would like advice on a specific development planning project please contact Jamie Gordon on 020 3697 7630.