Finding and winning support for development: challenges and opportunities

Engagement 2017 brought the field of public engagement to London’s America Square, in a day packed with insider information and specialist knowledge. The first plenary of the day focused on finding and winning support for development and the opportunities and constraints that come with it. The Leader of Royal Borough of Greenwich Council - Cllr Denis Hyland, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development – James Murray, and Sales and Marketing Director at Pocket Living - Lucian Smithers, sat on the panel chaired by HBF’s Peter Andrew and shared their wisdom with us.

Cllr Denise Hyland was the first to give her thoughts breaking effective engagement down into three main areas: timing, representation and approach. She claimed that the best way to engage with residents and councillors, with respect to timing, is to get in early and start consulting as soon as possible. Starting consultation early allows residents and councillors plenty of time to engage with the process, making them feel more listened to as a result.

James Murray was next to share his thoughts, explaining that a considered approach with a particular emphasis on infrastructure, design and affordable housing, is very important. He also stressed the importance of soft skills, claiming that the ability to interact with residents is essential for any consultation to be successful and by allying themselves with councillors, developers are more likely to understand local priorities.

Finally, Lucian Smithers of Pocket Living shared his thoughts on the benefits of effective consultation. He argued that even with his company’s schemes, in which they deliver 100% affordable housing, they still receive fierce opposition from NIMBYs. He suggested finding ways to change the debate to have a greater focus on the people who are going to make these houses, homes.

Each speaker placed importance on the same or similar aspects of consulting a local community. It is therefore clear that the need to engage early, be transparent and open, and find innovative ways of engaging is crucial to effective engagement, and should be the backbone of any engagement strategy.

This summary was written by Ryan Parker, Account Executive at MPC. 

The illustration above was drawn by Little Creature who was live drawing throughout the day.