Plan making direct support - advice on community engagement

PAS Community Engagement Support Module Briefing Note

You may have developed, supported or been on the front line of community engagement activities in the past, but which side of the table were you on? Is there a difference and does it really matter? Have you had some difficult experiences during engagement exercises with the public, do you think that you are just not cut out for that sort of work?

We believe that there are a wide range of skills that are required for developing and then delivering an effective engagement process. This workshop will help you to translate the results of the consultation into better plan making. The community will also benefit from your ability to help them express their views in a way that can positively shape the plan.


Who is the support for, what is its purpose and what are the benefits to me?

The module has been developed for groups as small as three of four people but also as large as more than 10 people, it is all about what your needs are. The investment of your time in attending this workshop will help you to understand what role you can play in supporting community involvement activities. We also believe that through undertaking this workshop it will equip you to ensure that the outcomes of a consultation process are effectively translated in to better plan making and that the community benefits from the advocacy opportunities that you have a requirement to provide as part of the planning system.

Put yourself in the shoes of the different stakeholder groups for a minute (a developer, Local Planning Authority or community representative). Ask yourself what are your motivations for becoming involved in a consultation process and what would keep you involved? Could the potential of a proposed development change a/your community? What would an effective consultative process really look like to each of the stakeholder groups? How might these differ and how do you find common ground?

Community engagement can come in many different shapes and sizes and also may require a multitude of differing approaches. This is often dependent on the subject matter or topics that need to be discussed. Over 75% of the challenge of making community engagement effective is, understanding the process and having an effective plan to support the delivery of a range of activities. It is not rocket science, it is about being organised and understanding your audiences' concerns and motivation and helping them to better understand the issues as much as the process.


What does the support look like?

We have designed an enabling programme which is made up of two half-day sessions which will be no more than 3-4 hours each, to help you understand the rudiments of engagement, with a foundation based on the current situation and the upcoming challenges that your authority is seeking to deliver, whether it be for your plan period or for a specific issue.

The first half day session will help you understand why it is important to involve the community in shaping locally strategic issues. We can provide you with some helpful hints and tips on

  • engagement approaches,
  • developing an effective process,
  • finding the right support in order to deliver effective activities,
  • delivering events,
  • ensuring that the community are able to engage effectively.

There are no ‘silver bullets' or ‘cast iron guarantees'. There are however some really straight forward jobs and roles that if you do them well, should provide an effective framework for the community to engage with. These will also provide you with some robust outcomes as well as some robust outcomes which can help improve your plan process, document or a proposed development. We have developed a suite of short topic-based modules which provide opportunities for participatory group activities supported by template documents which we want you to take away with you to help you with future community engagements.

We will provide opportunities to discuss some of your previous experiences and what you think worked well and what did not, as well as to discuss with your upcoming programme and the importance of getting the community involved at the right points in the right ways. By doing this we then can usefully help you develop an engagement approach that you can put in to practice effectively.


Do I need to do anything in advance?

At a pre-arranged date, we will run a second half day session with a group of identified people from Session 1, to review the draft engagement plan that as a group you will have developed. In advance of the second session we will peer review the draft engagement plan against the requirements identified. This will help shape a working session to take the engagement plan to a ‘draft final' stage and help you develop a delivery document for a number of the activities that you could undertake at the next consultation stage on your plan. This session will take the form of an action planning session which will ensure that all participants are aware of their areas of responsibility within the delivery of the engagement plan.


Self-serve materials

You are free to download these and use as you see fit: