The Government is consulting on its White Paper, ‘Planning for the Future’ and within it there is a clear recommendation for greater use of digital communication to involve local communities in planning. In fact, the word ‘digital’ is mentioned over 50 times. At present, the planning sections of many local authority websites are difficult to understand and navigate, particularly for the layperson. We hope that local authorities will have the resources made available to allow for investment in enhanced digital engagement.
“Digital consultation” is rightly the buzz word for consultation today, particularly during the current situation. But what makes good digital consultation?
The White Paper discusses the need for improved digital consultation for local planning authorities in detail but the same goes for the development industry. On development projects, good digital consultation (for example via a website and social media platforms) can convey clear messages and the vision for a site in an easy to understand format. It can also be cost and time effective, can reach a wider demographic, provides opportunities for feedback and has excellent longevity to submission and beyond, attracting sales interest for new homes. A well-run social media campaign can support this and keep the project in the forefront of people’s minds.
However, a good programme of digital consultation takes time and planning, with due consideration given to the aims of the consultation and the audience. It is not just one size fits all. Digital consultation should be:
- Easy to understand
- Engaging and interactive, including the use of video, webinars, interviews and walk-throughs
- Memorable and creative
- Confidence and trust-building
- Complimented by newsletters/brochures and hard copies of information
So, let’s make consultation not just different but better. Digital innovation and high-quality design can enhance projects. Now is an ideal opportunity to embrace digital strategies and approaches, so let’s do all we can to make digital consultation the best it can be.