It’s important to consider the benefits of PR before a project even begins. Whether you’re working on a small residential community or large-scale regeneration, placemaking, public consultation and stakeholder engagement can make a real difference to the reputation of your scheme. At a time when development is more important than ever, consultant and placemaking expert Rebecca Langton tells us why you should consider the benefits of these services before stepping on site.
Getting communities on your side
Development proposals are rarely met with indifference. Whether they are strongly supported and recognised as an opportunity to bring investment to an area, or strongly opposed through fear that they will change long accepted ways of life, developments are usually met with strong opinions.
Recognising that these opinions exist and providing opportunities not just to talk, but also to listen and understand stakeholder opinions early on, can help to get the best out of development plans. After all, it’s local communities who will live, work and do business alongside a development long after the scheme is completed. So, it’s only right that local communities have a meaningful say in projects that will affect them.
The importance of stakeholder engagement
Consultation and engagement mean many things to many people. Too often, it becomes part of a process after decisions have been made – a tick box exercise rather than a genuine opportunity to shape and inform plans. Effective engagement values the contribution of local people and stakeholders, accepts legitimate concerns and takes steps to address them.
Understanding who the stakeholders are is the starting point. They will almost certainly include the local authority, local residents and residents’ associations, and may also include MPs, businesses and neighbouring authorities.
In most cases, developments will have both strong supporters and strong opposition. So, it’s important to understand where each stakeholder lies, and the balance of local opinion for and against a proposed development.
Building strong relationships with those who support your proposals can ultimately help win over others. Stakeholders are far more likely to listen to their friends, neighbours and colleagues than they are a developer who to them might feel distant. Ensuring you take the time to build those relationships is time well spent.
How to handle resistance to your development
It’s just as important to engage with those in opposition to new developments. It’s a common and normal reaction to resist change and be wary of things that might impact your way of life. It’s important to acknowledge this, as well as offering genuine opportunities to raise concerns and have them addressed as development plans progress. Perhaps there is concern locally that a scheme will increase traffic, or damage valued green space.
Open consultation at an early stage can offer the opportunity to address these concerns as part of the development, perhaps by improving access and quality of green space or providing new access routes to the development. Through this process, there is greater opportunity to explain how the development can positively impact local communities – through benefits such as boosting the local economy and uplifts in land or property value.
Engaging early on and with a willingness to coproduce plans alongside the local community and stakeholders can result not only in a smoother development process, but a better overall product. Placemaking isn’t just about physical architecture of the development itself. It accepts that the built environment can shape lives and communities, and it’s only right and fair that those communities take the lead.
The Cartwright Communications team is still – and will remain – open for business. To find out how we can support you with placemaking, public consultations and stakeholder engagement, get in touch with us today.