Pre-application community involvement…meeting the standards

Posted by on Apr 3, 2017 in Journal | No Comments

MEETING THE STANDARDS

There are many lists around of consultation (involvement or engagement) standards. Two are particularly important. First, those listed in the “10 Commitments for Effective Pre-Application Engagement” produced by the LGA (very importantly, with the support of the HBF and BPF). Secondly, those used by the courts. However, courts never make public their lists of criteria so, in this case, the list was produced by an experienced barrister. What follows below draws mainly from the latter (the text in inverted commas). Text in italics is our commentary on the engagement work for the two case studies in previous posts (click here and here and to read).

So how did our work perform against key criteria?

  • Were the process, methods, consultees, timescales and outputs clearly set out and agreed with key parties? Yes, in both cases. This – especially the ‘all parties’ bit – is absolutely crucial. If there is an agreed process and that process can be shown to have been delivered it becomes very difficult for anybody to challenge that aspect.
  • Did the engagement take place ‘at a time when proposals were still only at a formative stage’? Yes, in both cases. In fact engagement started almost literally on day 1 – again extremely important (it is called front-loading!).
  • Were ‘positive steps taken to make the opportunities …. known to those who had a right to be consulted’? Yes, in both cases there was a planned process of ensuring a thorough lists of consultees.
  • Was there ‘adequate consultation as a whole’ using a range of different methods providing people with different ways to contribute? Yes, in both cases. There were very open opportunities (eg. post-it comments or private comments), managed opportunities through questionnaires, information exchange through websites etc. and other methods.
  • Did all consultees have opportunities to comment on different options? Though complete options were not offered in either case, the evolutionary nature of the processes enabled people to follow and comment on the design development at several stages.
  • Were consultees ‘given sufficient information to enable them to properly understand the proposal and respond to it’? Yes, in both cases there was an opportunity for people to comment, in fact before anything had settled into a fully final proposal.
  • Were people given adequate time to see and comment on proposals? Yes and perhaps no! There was more than enough time at the various workshops and the drop-ins and they were very widely advertised. Emerging outcomes were always made available on the website and people were given time to respond. That amount of time may not have been enough for groups such as the Totnes Civic Society who only meet monthly.
  • Were people’s views given ‘genuine and conscientious consideration’ and their input ‘taken into account in finalising the proposal’? Yes, in both cases there was a completely open audit trail of all input and an opportunity for people to follow every single comment from start to finish and see how it was or was not picked up.
  • Were proposals amended in any major way after all the consultation (in which case further consultation would have been required)? Only very tiny changes were made at application stage and in the Baltic Wharf example these were checked with the Steering Group. If there are what are judged to be major changes, further consultation is necessary.
  • Was there a full, final report of every aspect of the process both in summary and in trackable audit form format? Yes, in both cases. Final reports are an absolutely key element to back up everything above. Short summaries are inadequate should there be a legal challenge.

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