Insights article

The benefits of interactive proposal maps in community consultations

Sebastian Weise
Published: 09/08/2022

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Community consultation is increasingly being delivered online. This is because it's more accessible for people who don't have the time or resources to get to a consultation meeting, or for people with a disability that makes it difficult to attend a physical meeting.

There are benefits to this, community consultation online makes planning consultations more accessible to a wider range of residents who can share their views.

In moving the conversation online, can make it harder to communicating proposal and risk static engagement formats that are less likely to produce productive conversations. 

Here, interactive proposal maps can be a key component of a more engaging and proactive online engagement process. 

What are interactive proposal maps? 

A proposal map is an important tool for making community consultation easier for everyone involved. It’s an easy way to present complex information, allowing people to interact with it in a meaningful way. Proposal maps are a great way of presenting information in a way that’s easy to consume and drill down into the information they need.

Proposal maps such as supported by PlaceChangers take in a wide range of information, including proposed site layouts, amendments to routes or road layouts, 3D models of proposed developments. Planners and architects can bring all design information in one place and turn it into an interactive consultation. 

In addition to making the process of reviewing and commenting on proposals easier for the public, interactive proposal maps also have benefits for planners. They can provide an easy way to visualise complex relationships between different parts of a project without having to write out those relationships in prose. For example, a planner might want to show how their proposed traffic changes would affect pedestrian activity at intersections or how one road's capacity will be affected by another road's capacity. 

With an interactive map, all these things can be visualised directly in one place, allowing planners and community members alike to see all relevant information at once in order for them to make informed decisions about potential changes.

Benefits of interactive proposal maps in consultations

Wider access

Interactive proposal maps allow people who don't necessarily know anything about planning processes (or even computers) access not only review proposals but also provide meaningful input into decision-making processes. Many people don't have the skills needed to navigate complex information in, say, a PDF.

The key here is that it makes consultation more accessible: those who might otherwise not have participated in the process are now able to do so simply by clicking around online.

All proposals in one place

Static proposals with multiple sections can be confusing to people when they're not presented in a way that's easy to consume.

People often have difficulty understanding complex proposals, especially if they're presented in a way that's not easy to consume. If you want your audience to understand the details of your proposal, it's important that they can see how all the parts fit together.

Using interactive maps allows you to clearly communicate how different aspects of a community consultation relate to each other and what their impact is on the local community.

For example, find out how the design team for Northern Roots created an interactive consultation using site layouts, proposal insets, and models to shape a complex masterplan.  

Read more here: Priorities for UK's largest urban farm set with residents 

Personalise content for drill downs

An interactive proposal map means the audience can drill down into your proposal on the areas that matter most to them.

One of the great things about an interactive proposal map is that you can direct people's attention to the information that's relevant to them. This way, you can give them all the details they need without overwhelming them with data. If a resident is interested in knowing more about specific parts of your proposal, all they have to do is click on those areas and find out what it means for them—without having to sift through pages of information that doesn't apply directly to their neighbourhood or household needs.

This allows you to give them all the information they need while also limiting cognitive overload by only presenting them with what's relevant to their needs.

More engaging

Interactive proposal maps offer another way to invite and document responses to ‘is there anything else you like to say or suggest’. For your consultation, with an interactive proposal map on Placechangers, you can optionally invite respondents not just to feedback on proposals you generated, but they can also point out additional ideas and suggestions that they like to raise directly on the map. 

Better feedback

When people engage with your consultation in this way you get better quality and more constructive feedback and better understanding of what each person thinks of the proposal.

The most important thing to remember when you're developing a proposal is that the people who will be affected by it want to be heard, understood and involved. They want their thoughts on how the proposal might affect them to be taken into consideration as well as any recommendations they have for improving it.

In order for this to happen effectively and efficiently, you need to make sure everyone knows what's going on at each stage of the consultation process. If you do this properly then all parties can engage with your consultation in a way that works for them personally - whether through traditional methods such as face-to-face meetings or written questionnaires/surveys; or through more innovative approaches like interactive visualisations like maps or diagrams which encourage engagement via visualisation rather than just text content alone. This way everyone gets involved!

Better relationships

The result of this is better planning decisions and a stronger relationship between the planners and the community.

The interactive approach shows how the proposal will affect people's lives, making it easier for them to understand how their needs can be met. It also helps planners learn more about what people think of the proposal, which can help them make changes that better reflect community needs.

This method has been shown to improve planning outcomes by giving all stakeholders a voice in decision-making, increasing trust in local government and facilitating more effective communication between developers, councils and communities.

Tips when using interactive proposal maps

To ensure that your proposal maps are accessible to everyone—especially those with learning difficulties or who speak another language—consider these tips:

  • Make the map easy to understand. Use clear language and avoid jargon wherever possible. The more straightforward your map is, the easier it will be for everyone to access it. 
  • Make navigation simple. Don't expect users to be familiar with interactive content, so make sure that each proposal can be reached from anywhere else on an interactive proposal map. For example, in PlaceChangers you can create a guided tour to highlight critical aspects of proposals. 
  • For big projects, think in terms of focus areas, and include separate proposal maps for each with additional map annotations that the public can engage with.
  • Ensure that any image material is consistent in style and matches to established accessibility guidelines. 


A proposal map is an important tool for making community consultation easier for everyone involved.

With more consultations being held online, consulting with interactive proposal maps is more engaging and productive than a traditional survey method. It is also more accessible for people who don't have the time or resources to get to a consultation meeting. 

Platforms such as PlaceChangers make it simple for planners, architects, and designers to generate powerful interactive proposal maps for their clients enabling powerful consultations on proposed layout plans. 

Explore the PlaceChangers planning toolkit

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PC Site Insights - Unique location insights tool for health and wellbeing outcomes

Start to make use of location data and enrich your community engagement planning with insights on local people. Add in your own data sources and gather analytics in one place. 

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