Last night I attended the regular meeting of Peakirk’s Neighbourhood Planning group – made up of interested residents and parish councillors. This group of volunteers are the driving force behind the Neighbourhood Plan, doing much of the research, manning events, and pulling the plan together stage by stage. The group receives planning advice from Peterborough City Council and Locality.
The story so far
Athene has been advising the group on community engagement, stakeholder management, and communications as a key part of the process of developing an effective Neighbourhood Plan. Previous blog posts cover the work we’ve done so far, including helping launch the neighbourhood plan with a bang to maximise awareness and engagement amongst local people. We’ve also helped the group deliver early engagement activities, put together an engagement strategy, identify key stakeholders to consult, and establish processes to record and report on the engagement activity undertaken.
The group has now taken the feedback from the very early engagement with residents and has established key themes to focus on. The next step is evidence-gathering around these themes and more detailed and specific consultation through two workshops and a public meeting.
The next challenge
This is a very busy period for the group with lots of research and meetings with key people. But to the rest of the village it seems like there is not much going on! The challenge for this phase of the development of the plan, is to maintain local momentum and enthusiasm for the process.
The key to this, is to keep on communicating. And for that, you need to have thought about your communication channels at an early stage. Having these mechanisms for communicating with local people in place early on makes it easy to provide regular updates, which is even more important when you’re busy and have other things to focus on.
With our help, Peakirk is in a strong position when it comes letting people know about all the work that’s underway, and importantly, how their feedback is shaping the process. Both are essential to maintain momentum and local interest/support. A dedicated blog, an e-newsletter, articles in local press, posters, social media, and attending local events are all being used to reach local residents in Peakirk.
Understanding the communication channels and tools that will be effective is a key part of any community engagement programme. Identifying them early and doing the ground work to prepare them will pay off in the long run.
Director, Community Engagement, Athene Communications