SSM have been running consultation events since the early 1990’s and their work with Community Housing Associations. The events have included workshops, residential weekends, exhibitions, presentations, and site visits. Many of these have related to our regeneration and masterplan projects such as Stranraer Waterfront Masterplan, North Sighthill Masterplan and Dalkeith Town Centre Regeneration.
These events involve a three key stages of Information Exchange, Discussion and finally Agreement. We organise all consultation events to reflect the particular requirements of the project and the local community, ideally agreeing a comprehensive Consultation Strategy at an early stage. We use a range of techniques to communicate with groups and to systematically gather feedback on the proposals. Many people are nervous about attending these events and a ‘welcome at the door’ and a friendly face will encourage them to relax and engage fully in the process.
Planning legislation requires us to undertake a statutory consultation process for Major Planning Applications (such as housing projects with over 50 units). We have run this process on a number of projects. This needs to be considered in the context of the project programme and undertaken at the appropriate time.
We engage early with the Council Planning Authority and the relevant Community Council who both have a statutory role in this process. Discussions with the Community Council will highlight design issues which may need to be addressed, and the best way to approach the consultation in terms of choice of venue, nature of events and organisations who should be involved. This forms a basis for the Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) submitted to the Council.
Ideally design proposals have been based on good clear information and have established the main design principles but are still at a stage where the community feel there is an opportunity to influence. We prefer to present sketch designs to the Community Council prior to any public event and hopefully to illicit their support. The nature of the public events should be accessible to all, held in a local venue with clear drawing information, using plain English and staff by designers who can engage effectively with local people.
We prepare concise informative PAC reports which chart the process of the consultation and the influence of this process on the development of the designs. These form part of our Planning Application submission.
Our enthusiasm and commitment for participation and consultation as part of our projects has involved us in events from a village hall in the Western Isles to an Edinburgh Fringe venue. Participation is a process which never fails to be both interesting and challenging. We find that a sense of humour and reality about our how our profession is viewed by people helps to encourage high quality engagement. We are enthusiastic about the process and the benefits that effective consultation brings to any design project.