At Athene Communications, one of our core services that we pride ourselves on delivering is stakeholder and community engagement for planning applications. We help our clients seek the views of the key stakeholders and community associated with their proposed development to ensure that everyone’s feedback is taken into consideration prior to the developer submitting their application.
When the government published their guidelines relating to coronavirus on 18 March, we wanted to ensure that our client’s consultations could still go ahead despite restrictions on public events. As a result, we have continued to successfully hold consultation events for various clients – online.
The technology that has helped us through this challenging time both in our work and personal lives, has also helped us to communicate with an even wider audience than before. We’d like to share our approach to these online consultations with you, so if you ever need any help you know what type of services we can offer.
Online project meetings
We pride ourselves on our ability to fit seamlessly into your team to deliver your aims and objectives. Even when we can’t hold physical meetings, we are flexible and adaptable to ensure that we become one of the team.
To ensure we capture all of the benefits of the development and how we can best communicate with the local community, we can host online project meetings to devise the most effective approach and strategy for your needs.
Project meetings are an important tool for figuring out common aims, shared objectives and working to reduce any teething problems that may arise. With travel times and blocked out diaries a thing of the past, we can always schedule in a meeting with the project team to update and revise as necessary.
Stakeholder meetings and focus groups
One way we have been able to communicate with local stakeholders and community members is via online focus groups. These have proved a great way to engage with smaller groups of people and really delve into their views and ideas.
We have held sessions over the past few months with councillors, local residents and businesses on a range of projects. These have been welcomed as a positive way to ensure stakeholders and communities feel at ease and included in the development of plans.
Within normal times, physical public exhibitions have been Athene’s go-to way to communicate proposals and provide a chance for the local community and project team to discuss the plans. With physical events on hold since March, online webinars have been an excellent way of sharing a breadth of information online to those interested.
The option for a live question and answer session using the chat function means that questions can be moderated before being put to the project team. Any question that is answered can then be heard by all attendees, making it a simple and effective way to address any queries and concerns.
To ensure that everyone is consulted with effectively and can get in touch, we also offer telephone surgery appointments where people can speak with a member of the project team. These are a particularly useful way of engaging with people who do not have access to a computer, or those who have multiple questions about a proposal.
Best practice consultation advice is that developers should carry out stakeholder and community consultation. This involves speaking to the key stakeholders and publicising your proposal to those who will be impacted. Prior to Covid-19 this was not a problem, however, with this type of consultation unable to go ahead, providing information online has never been more important.
To ensure people can view details about proposed developments, including the draft layout, we have set up dedicated websites for our clients. Hosting information about the proposal, providing contact details for the project support team and offering a sign-up link to online discussions such as the focus groups and webinars as well as an online survey.
Newsletters and press features
For those that cannot access our online materials, we have been able to send out newsletters to designated areas. The newsletters can include a wealth of information, including full plans of the site, maps, details of what is to be included, contact information and information about any webinars, focus groups or telephone helplines.
Similarly, notices can be placed in the local press to ensure that a wide audience is aware of what is going on and how they can get involved in the consultations.
By offering a variety of methods of communication, we can guarantee that everyone is able to have their thoughts and questions heard.
So there you have it, that’s how we can help you to engage with your community through online consultation – there are a few other things we can do but we don’t want to give all our secrets away!
If you want to know more about how we can help you with your remote consultations, please email our Director of Community Engagement, Kelly, at [email protected]