CASE STUDY: Helping supporters find their voice

MPC was first instructed to work on a project in a Suffolk Coastal village in in October 2015. There was an active opposition group against development in the village and the Parish Council were fighting hard to resist further homes. However, Suffolk Coastal continues to be in great need of new homes.

The proposals included 98 new homes, significant public open space, 35% affordable and a mix of sizes that also included bungalows. Our client had worked hard to prepare proposals that met the needs of the community, but they needed help ensuring that the support for the development was heard.

At MPC, we work hard to ensure that every strategy we write is sympathetic to the development proposed and the environment in which the consultation will take place. With this project, it was clear that a public exhibition was not the right approach. This would have attracted only those in opposition to the site, and would not have been a constructive way to engage.

Instead, we prepared a newsletter which included a plan of the site, information about the scheme, and a detachable feedback form with our Freepost address. We also provided residents with our Freephone line which allowed people to speak to a member of the project team if they so wished. Within two weeks, we had received over 60 written responses to our consultation.

We then mapped these responses and realised that a whole section of the village had not yet engaged with our consultation. Looking at our demographic Shelter data, which allows us to pinpoint specific postcodes, we expected that these residents were also most likely to support the proposals. The headline report relating to the research MPC undertook in partnership with Shelter can be seen here.  In response to this, we therefore reached out to this section of the village through door to door canvassing, allowing residents to give feedback on the doorstep. In just two hours we spoke to a dozen local residents who supported the scheme. . These residents provided some great feedback which we used on our materials to the Council, and many also wrote in to the Council’s consultation.

Last month, the application was approved by Suffolk Coastal District Council, who recognised the benefits the proposals would give to the community. The officer specifically commented in the committee report on the comprehensive nature of our consultation efforts, and how we had clearly worked hard to genuinely consult the community.

Our leaflet and door-knocking strategy gave people a much greater chance to have their say, and helped us to identify supporters for development in a vociferous and opposing stakeholder environment. If you need help with a site in a difficult area, and are looking for a unique strategy, specific to your development, please contact us on 01225 422243.

 

This article was written by Account Manager Emma Benson