Fresh eyes

How good communication can help your planning application

How good communication can help your planning application

Written by Michael Gregory,
Director at Freshfield

In recent years, and largely through the introduction of the Localism Bill, there’s a greater focus put on engaging with communities or stakeholders as part of the planning application process.

Fundamentally, anyone wanting to submit a planning application to develop a project – be it a residential scheme, a business park, infrastructure or a major energy project – will need to embark on a stakeholder engagement project to ensure the scheme is understood and accepted.

Communicating the benefits of your development

It is important to know the key stages of the planning application process and when the right time to get your message out is. You need to ensure your development’s benefits are being communicated. These could include short and long term job creation, the regeneration of a local eyesore, and the positive impact on the wider local economy.

From the outset you’ll need to identify who your stakeholders are and how frequently they need to be communicated with, as well as ensuring they understand what is planned and why. There’s also a statutory publicity requirement for making key groups aware of a planning application, which can be found on the government’s planning portal.

A well devised communications plan will undoubtedly help your planning application. By engaging with the stakeholders, who will be interested in your application, you can understand their point of view, garner their support or allay any concerns.

How to communicate with different stakeholders

The tools available to you as part of the engagement or consultation process can be quite basic to the extremely intensive but will form an overarching communications campaign. Examples include:

  • Meetings / briefings
  • Presentations / forums
  • Public displays / meetings
  • Direct communications (newsletters / direct mail)
  • Website / social media
  • Media relations
  • Exhibitions
  • Enquiry by Design

Of course, depending on the size of the project or scheme, not all tools will be relevant, but you’ll need to demonstrate that you have proactively engaged with stakeholders from the start, as these certain groups can hold the key to improving the prospects of planning permission being granted.

Transparency is the key to support

Some planning applications will be more straightforward than others. The more complex schemes will need long communication programmes and in major schemes, where significant planning decisions are made by elected politicians, it’s vital that productive working relationships with councillors, elected mayors and MPs are developed.

The many projects we have been involved in have always benefitted from well devised communication programmes, as stakeholders appreciate the transparency and flow of information.

Planning applications that receive strong levels of opposition have done so because there is a lack of willingness to provide information creating speculation and distrust, which often influences those who make the decisions.

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