Fresh eyes

Prepare now for Localism planning

prepare now for local planning
Paul Tustin Client Director PR & Comms Headshot

Written by Paul Tustin,
PR & Communications Director at Freshfield

The full cost of the Localism Bill and what it means is just beginning to dawn for major developers.

The initial implications can be seen in the landmark case in Stevenage where the Planning Inspector rejected an appeal for a development by Cala Homes as part of a major 9,600 homes extension to the west and north of Stevenage.

In the end, the plan was deemed to be ‘unsustainable’ in the light of new powers and North Herts decided to start working on its own plans to meet the new legislation.

The shift from central to local government is quite extreme when you examine the finer detail of the Localism Bill.

Within the Bill, there is a package of measures called The Community Right to Build, proposals that would give local communities the overall power to decide what is built in their area.

It means that developers will have to prove that they have engaged and consulted with the local community at the design stage of all ‘large scale applications’, defined as those covering more than 200 residential units or 10,000 sq metres of floor-space,

The precise form of consultation would be determined by the developer, in conjunction if necessary with communities and local authorities. Ultimately, the test of engagement and consultation will rest with local authorities who will judge whether the developer has merely paid lip service to consult or truly involved the local community in its plans.

Having consulted and engaged the community, developers will also be expected to then reflect those opinions into their plans to prove that they have listened and acted upon them.

At Freshfield, this is something we are familiar with, particularly through our work with the NHS which has been obliged to consult and engage with communities for some years before making any changes to services.

We would advise developers and organisations planning any large scale developments to consider how they will engage and consult with communities earlier rather than later and to think through their communications strategy clearly.

Ultimately, this is about communications and stakeholder engagement. Using online and offline methods to truly gather opinions and views and reflect them succinctly and clearly will be the challenge. The choice of channels, methods and how this meets local community requirements will also test the applicants of any large-scale plan.

The cost of not getting this right, I fear, will become all too evident as this unfolds in the coming months.

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