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Kingsbrook Main Road Opening Ceremony
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Local MP and Councillors officially open new link road at Kingsbrook development

Friday 30th July, local housebuilder Barratt David Wilson Homes welcomed Buckingham MP Greg Smith and members of Buckinghamshire Council to officially mark the opening of the Eastern Link Road at its Kingsbrook development in Aylesbury. The new road will link the A4157 to the A418, allowing traffic to travel through the area and bypass Bierton village.

On the day, senior representatives from Barratt David Wilson North Thames met with local MP Greg Smith alongside key members of Buckinghamshire Council and other representatives who have been instrumental in the delivery of the Eastern Link Road, including Kingsbrook Parish Council. The road opening also marks the launch of a new bus route, which will connect Kingsbrook residents to Aylesbury and the surrounding area, including local bus and train stations.

Greg Smith, MP for Buckingham, comments: “It was a pleasure to visit Kingsbrook today, and to officially open the Eastern Link Road, which will reduce traffic through Bierton and allow additional public transport routes to run.”

Steven Broadbent, Buckinghamshire Council Cabinet Member for Transport, said the Eastern Link Road represented a new and very welcome addition to Aylesbury’s infrastructure:
“This new road forms part of the Council’s long-term vision for a series of link roads around Aylesbury to support the wider regeneration of the town centre, help drive our economic growth and recovery in Buckinghamshire and generate employment opportunities. I would like to thank all those involved for everything they have done to deliver this important new link for Aylesbury.”

The Eastern Link Road has been delivered as part of Barratt David Wilson North Thames’ S106 commitments. In total, the housebuilder will invest £81million to the local area, the majority of which is dedicated to the improvement or construction of roads and infrastructure.

Jo Alden, Technical Director at Barratt David Wilson North Thames, comments:
“We are pleased to officially open the Eastern Link Road, which will offer a much-needed relief route and help to ease local congestion. I would like to thank all those involved in the delivery of the new road, including Buckinghamshire Council and Kingsbrook Parish Council.

“The new Kingsbrook Flyer bus route will now allow even more residents at Kingsbrook, and beyond, to travel locally using public transport, helping to reduce car usage and encouraging more sustainable methods of travel.”

John Watson, Vice Chairman at Kingsbrook Parish Council, commented:
“It was a pleasure to attend the official opening of the Eastern Link Road which will make a huge difference to residents at Kingsbrook alongside the wider communities in Bierton and Aylesbury.”

Barratt David Wilson North Thames is currently building its Kingsbrook development, which will deliver 2,500 new homes alongside new schools including Kingsbrook View Primary Academy which opens this September, community facilities, allotments, orchards, park, playgrounds and 250-acre nature reserve.

Currently available at the development is a selection of one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom homes with prices starting from £252,500 for a one-bedroom coach house.

News

English Local Elections 2021 – the biggest in nearly 50 years.

In this blog, Chris Brown, Senior Consultant at Engage Planning and Local Councillor on South Norfolk Council looks at what May 6th could hold in the biggest local elections since the reorganisation of local government in 1973!

On 6 May 2021, there are a range of elections being held across England. There are 145 County, Unitary and District Councils holding elections, for around 5,000 seats. Some of these elections were postponed from May 2020, due to the pandemic, and so there are many more councillors to be elected. In fact, these elections are the biggest local elections since the reorganisation of local government in 1973. 

Alongside this, there are elections for 13 Mayors, the London Assembly, 39 Police & Crime Commissioners and even one Parliamentary by-election, not to mention various Parish Councils and local Neighbourhood Plan referenda.

In some areas, electors may have as many as six votes to cast on Thursday!

So, what will happen and what impact could it have?

Will national issues or local issues win out?

As with all local elections, voters will decide their positions based on a plethora of national and local issues. National parliament polling is showing the Conservatives well ahead of Labour, around 43% to 34%, with the Lib Dems hovering around 8% and the Greens around 5%. 

Local issues will have a big influence on individual areas, though, with them driving decisions for many, possibly most, voters. The last year has brought the importance of local councils to the forefront, with the response to the pandemic and now local recovery plans. Other issues such as the protection of the Green Belt will be uppermost for some areas.

What about voter turnout? Typically, local election turnout is low, at around 33% in 2018 and as low as 25% in some areas. There is a big question over this years’ turnout, given the ongoing Covid restrictions and the potential fear factor for many. Differential turnout (the variation between different groups) could also influence results; typically, older age groups would have the highest turnout, but this year could see younger people more confident to go out and vote. Local political campaigning was also severely impacted by the lockdown, with much campaigning only becoming possible in March. There has been a large push towards postal voting this year, but many still fear that turnout overall will be down.

Ones to watch

In terms of the results, half of the seats being contested were last up for election in 2017, when Labour was significantly behind the Conservatives in the polls, and some seats were last contested in 2016. Therefore, it would be expected that Labour should make gains this time around. 

Some areas will be key to watch. In particular, there are three newly formed Councils up for election for the first time following reorganisations; North Northamptonshire, West Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire Council. Others have seen boundary changes so the entire council is up for election, including Basingstoke & Deane, Cambridge, Chorley, Oxford and Pendle. Some others currently with No Overall Control could present surprises, such as Milton Keynes, Peterborough, Portsmouth and Southend. Whatever happens, there are certain to be surprises and upsets this year.

The questions over the pandemic response and the success of the vaccination programme on voter opinions, the unknown influence of turnout and so many elections happening at once, means that the outcome is immensely difficult to judge, but it will have implications for all in the years to come. 

Chris Brown, Senior Consultant at Engage Planning

Local Councillor on South Norfolk Council

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The Challenges Facing Local Government

In this Blog, David Brown, Project Consultant at Engage Planning and Local Councillor on Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council and former Cabinet Member for Finance, discusses the challenges facing local government.

Local Government and the challenges ahead

As for much of the Public Sector, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic effect on local councils and will be a challenge for years to come. This is not the only challenge, though, and Local Government across the UK has much to contend with.

COVID & Public Health

Since the reforms of the NHS in 2013, upper tier local authorities have been given responsibility for running local Public Health services under the remit of Public Health England. Many have responded admirably to the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic with local responses to support hospitals, care homes and schools, those in the community particularly impacted by shielding and self-isolation, the introduction of testing centres and the vaccination programme.

As the country emerges from the pandemic, the challenge for councils will be to structure their services and organisation to respond to the longer-term shifts caused by the pandemic in terms of ongoing demand for public health services, the care sector, education and the changes in ways of working with the impact that may have on public transport and travel.

Finances

Council finances have always been under pressure, especially since the financial crisis and subsequent years of austerity bringing about reductions in central government funding and more pressure on Council Tax to fill the gap. These perpetual pressures are continuing but are now exacerbated by the pandemic, which has fundamentally shifted the areas of income and expenditure for councils and brought about significant uncertainty for future finances.

Many local authorities rely on income from car parks and service charges which have dropped dramatically during the pandemic and may never recover to pre-pandemic levels. This includes lost income from running leisure centres, museums, arts venues and tourism services, which have all needed financial support to survive.

In addition, income from Council Tax is likely to be under pressure as more families experience financial troubles, adding to pressures on the benefits bill which Councils administer and support.

Local Economic Recovery

High Streets and the retail trade have hit the headlines as they suffer the impact of lockdowns and the accelerated shift to online shopping, but all sections of the economy have been impacted. Local councils will need to have strategies and plans in place to support the recovery of businesses.

The business impact is having a knock-on effect for council finances, with potential holes in their forecast business rates income. Many councils have also made significant investments in commercial and retail property as a reliable source of future income but may now have lost millions in value.

As the economy has slowed, and in particular house building and development, Councils will be under pressure to get this back on track to achieve their targets for delivering new homes and the financial contributions from developers and the New Homes Bonus money from central government.

Adult Social Care

With the pandemic placing unprecedented pressure on care homes and services, it cannot be forgotten that there was already a crisis in Adult Social Care due to increased demand caused by demographic changes outstripping funding. National government still needs to address this long-term issue which remains a significant pressure for local government in delivering the services and funding demanded by their communities.

Climate Emergency

Many local authorities have declared a Climate & Ecological Emergency in the past couple of years and made commitments to become Net Zero. Whilst the pandemic has distracted some from this priority, it cannot be ignored and is now a greater challenge to maintain focus and deliver the necessary carbon reductions.

social-media-planning-consultation
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The future is hybrid. How Engage Planning can help developers reach a wider audience through the power of social media and a blended outreach strategy

In ‘normal’ times, traditional methods of consultation, such as public exhibitions and community workshops are of great value. They are a very effective means of capturing local community interest in new developments, building relationships, and providing a platform to communicate with the project team.

However, not just in these changing times but also going forward, a more blended approach to include a digital strategy will widen the impact.

Adopting a digital strategy is not something to be feared or avoided and can enhance a scheme through appropriate use of a well-branded, informative project website and supporting social media tools for community outreach and engagement.

Social media can quickly and effectively hit a wide demographic and can also build target audiences specific to your project. This allows you to build an audience that will engage and advocate your scheme as it progresses through planning. It enables you to gain valuable feedback from a cross section of the community without significant additional costs.

Location targeting, through paid social media advertising, can ensure you reach an audience within a 20-mile radius from the development. Interest targeting can find people who are currently interested in buying a new home, ensuring that you are reaching out to the right community, instantly.

Using social media tools such as polls and questionnaires can encourage your target audience to directly engage, take insight from, and interact with your content.

Gaining feedback through polls or creating content to raise awareness of a scheme, allows you to not only collate valuable feedback but establish an early relationship with the local community and collect potential customer data with consent. 

Having successfully tailored online community engagement plans for housebuilders such as Bloor Homes, Barratt David Wilson and Taylor Wimpey, we know that the positive results from employing an effective social media plan to support a project’s website are vast and immediately apparent.

Our online community engagement plan for a Bloor Homes project resulted in a 93% web traffic increase. Using a blended approach, 50% of respondents expressedan interest in the purchasing of the new homes, allowing the opportunity for sales cultivation at this early stage in the process.

There has been a 70% increase in social media usage since the start of the year, making it an effective way to target and engage communities. Adopting a blended outreach strategy of online and offline methods, using tools such as social media and project websites alongside direct mail, will help you reach a wider demographic, maximising community reach and engagement.

Now is the perfect time to review your engagement strategy. Take a look at our services page to find out more about the consultation programmes we have or contact us for more information.

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