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Research highlights engagement challenge for local councils

Just 11% of young adults have knowingly engaged in local plan consultations intended to set the long-term blueprint for new development in their areas, according to research commissioned by Social.

The findings, set out in a YouGov online poll of more than 2,200 respondents, highlight the extent of the challenge facing local and national government when it comes to meaningfully engaging people about housing and planning.

It comes as the government launches a consultation into its planning White Paper, which sets out ambitions to simplify and strengthen Local Plans for housing and involve residents in shaping these. Taken across all age groups who responded to the survey, 26% of respondents said they had engaged with a Local Plan consultation, with more than two thirds (69%) saying they have not been involved in the process.

“This research highlights a significant challenge for policy makers, who are rightly looking at ways to meaningfully involve the public in future plans for their area,” said Ben Lowndes, a director at Social, which has commissioned the research.

“Local Plans are hugely important in determining where homes and employment happens in an area. In our experience, the level of engagement in this process is often limited to those with vested interests and time to spend in trawling through and responding to detailed and complex information.

“If local Plans are to have a more significant role in reflecting an area’s needs and aspirations, this engagement gap must be addressed.”

Other key findings from the research include:

  • Eighty per cent of respondents aged between 18 and 34 said they had not engaged in a Local Plan consultation, with another 9% saying they were unsure if they had.
  • The majority of respondents all ages (51%) cited knowing their feedback to the local plan would ‘make a difference’ as a key reason for engaging in the process. This figure increases to 73% amongst those 613 respondents who said they had participated in a Local Plan consultation.
  • Better promotion of the information (41%), and clarity and simplicity of information (37%) were also highlighted as significant reasons for engaging

“The government rightly wants to see Local Plans simplified and used well to engage a wider number of people in this process,” added Ben.

“We know from our work with communities that people care passionately about their areas and will engage positively if the consultation process is clear, accessible and easy to understand.

“We need to move away from asking people to read and respond to dense documents and attend events at village halls to give their feedback.

“We’re looking forward to working with our clients and partners to address this challenge.”

The Town & Country Planning Association (TCPA) responded to the research today.

Fiona Howie, Chief-Executive at the Town & Country Planning Association, added: 

“We know there is an urgent need to rebuild trust in the planning system. Supporting everyone within communities to participate in plan-making will be an important part of working to achieve that.”

“As this research highlights, people must know that their involvement will be meaningful and listened too.

“But there also needs to be culture change at national and local levels – so that involving communities in planning is seen as a good thing that will result in higher quality plans and better outcomes from the system. Community involvement must not be compromised in an attempt to simply speed up the system.”

If you have any questions about the research, please get in touch.


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