“Lobbying is a normal part of the planning process. Those who may be affected by a planning decision, whether through an application, a site allocation in a development plan or an emerging policy, will often seek to influence it through an approach to their ward member or to a member of the planning committee”: Local Government Association’s “Probity in Planning” guidance note 2013.
It is rare that people living in the vicinity of a large-scale development will be willing to support a proposal on the basis of the benefit to the wider community, for example, in terms of providing housing to help satisfy a local or regional need. It is far more likely that they will look to raise as strong an objection as they are able, spurred on by a belief that the development will adversely affect their lives and/or the value of their house, whether or not that is supported by the facts.
The internet and social media are often used to campaign, and what might initially start as a small group of concerned local residents can quickly morph into a large, strong and effective opposition group.
With local planning authorities made up of people elected by local residents, it is important that Councillors (both local ward members and, at appropriate times, the Executive and members of the Planning Committee) are kept informed about the proposals and the relevant planning policies and that any “misinformation” is quickly corrected.
Lobbying is not some form of clandestine activity carried out in the shadows – or at least it shouldn’t be! What it should be is the professional communication of factual information to elected decision-makers. It is vital that this is done in full accordance with the Council’s policies and in a way that could never be misconstrued by either Members or their electorate – a developer’s representative needs to be not just 100% honest and professional but also to be understood to be such by all parties.
As well as seeking to make sure that the decision-makers are correctly informed, our role is to try to lessen concerns about a proposed development from those who may be directly affected. This can be done in a variety of ways depending on the people and the potential impacts – from the distribution of information in leaflets or exhibitions through to just having a quiet cup of tea with an individual or small group. We generally advise against public meetings as in our experience these do little to help constructive engagement.
We have significant experience of promoting schemes and building trustful relationships with Councillors and local residents alike.
For more information on how we can support your development application, contact Iain Vellacott or Althea Taylor-Salmon at email@example.com or call 01992 551 335.
Community Engagement on Development Proposals – Bishop's Stortford North
Iain is undoubtedly one of the best in the business. His extensive experience coupled with his understanding of the planning system make him a key member of a project team. His initial research and ongoing monitoring are always extremely useful in identifying potential issues and opportunities and his communications abilities are excellent -whether it be writing press releases or exhibition boards or just having a quiet cup of tea with a concerned local resident. I would have no hesitation in recommending Iain – he is a pleasure to work with, an excellent ambassador and he always gives 100% commitment to a project.
Andrew Dutton, Strategic Land Director Bovis Homes