Insights article

Planning consultation trends in 2022: what to expect and how to take action

Sheryle Moon
Published: 01/03/2022

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Let's look at a few key planning consultation trends in 2022.

The last two years have reinforced the importance of human connection and how our community contributes to our physical and mental health and wellbeing. This, combined with the lockdowns and isolation, has led organisations to look for better ways to connect online. In 2022 we can see increased efforts to grow the effectiveness and efficiencies of using digital tools for community engagement consultations.

Rebuilding trust in institutions

The recent Edelman Barometer, which measures trust, found that people who were connected to business entities were more trusting of the information provided than that coming from politicians or media (traditional or social). Specifically, the report found that "integrity, dependability and purpose drive 76 per cent of the trust capital of business, while competence accounts for only 24 per cent". 

For government organisations, especially local governments, substantial budget cuts over previous years will continue to present a challenge. Recently on LinkedIn, we saw comments from local planning officers such as: 

"I often hear the words that "local authorities are dealing with an unprecedented workload" when officers are dealing with 60+ applications at any one time! Note, this is not unprecedented. This has become the norm!!"

We expect the situation to continue for a while into 2022. As a result, we expect to see greater uptake of digital planning technologies to aid with capacity. We support more personalised and responsive follow-up to the public and applicants for planning permissions.

In England, for example with the publication of the recent 2022 Levelling Up white paper, we continue to see an increasingly nuanced discussion of digital planning tools in a range of different use cases. Leading local governments, such as Westminster City Council, have moved ahead and published an innovative early engagement guide for developers

The rise of community engagement as a cornerstone of business model

In the property sector, for planning and development or regenerative or new development projects, community feedback will continue to influence the infrastructure that is built in their local community. All organisations involved in the development or maintenance of community infrastructure will look for new ways to deepen and enrich their engagement activities to grow participation and strengthen involvement and ownership of new project ideas.  

We are seeing leading developers such as Redrow and Countryside talk about being "for purpose" as part of their strategy. In comparison to their peers, these organisations have developed a nuanced understanding of placemaking, and communicate facts and figures beyond the specs of individual house types in placemaking frameworks.

Similarly, ambitious designers and planners use a community-led approach to influence and "sell" to those who will consume their end products. Such organisations recognise the value of early, consistent, in-depth engagement with citizens. Residents provide input on the positives and comments on proposals that face implementation obstacles. 

Negative feedback can enable early-stage remediation (at a fraction of the cost of remediation in a finished project) or suggest design changes to accommodate citizen requests around health and wellbeing or access to facilities and green space. 

Heeding such feedback translates into:

  • Lower site acquisition costs
  • Lower build costs
  • Ambitious design features that meet or exceed national benchmarks
  • Health and wellbeing outcomes for communities 
  • Competitive advantage enabled by actually building back better than other organisations

Health and wellbeing agenda and placemaking

Another planning consultation trend in 2022 is the growing emphasis on building back better with awareness of what good design means. Part of this is the growing need to understand and document environmental and social impacts of developments. 

For councils validation requirements, increasingly councils recommend or require the preparation of a health impact statement for large developments. In the North East, where we are based, this is a now validation requirement for Sunderland, Durham County, and soon Northumberland County Council. It follows a trend set by organisations such as Chelmsford City Council and their health-focused Livewell accreditation framework.  

Here PlaceChangers has led the way for a while though the innovative place benchmark tool, Site Insights, which provides a health-focused baseline for any site in England. Combined with a greater level of early engagement, more sophisticated understanding of placemaking for developers and councils, we can expect more scrutiny for projects on their social impact metrics. 

Focus on content: visual, informative and accessible 

While we all complain about content overload, we want current, accurate, and relevant information to the decisions we are being asked to comment on. The internet and social media has meant that we have become more visual and less textual. 

Another factor contributing to this is the short attention span, and if there are any difficulties, most people will abandon the discussion. If easy to access and under are in a world of content overload. Providing (and facilitating) captivating content is essential for growing and maintaining a thriving community. It is equally essential to provide the community with feedback on their feedback. Tell them how the development has changed due to their commentary. 

Map-based site placement allows residents and other interested parties to quickly locate the development site in the context of the total community environment. 

We'll also see a growing use of 3D interactive models. 3D modelling in urban design enables people to quickly gauge the shadows cast or views that may be impacted by existing infrastructure. Video walkthroughs provide a more detailed vision of the design and proposed changes or new build. You can read our articles on 3D modelling in planning consultation projects here.

Since last year, PlaceChangers consultation tools support the incorporation of 3D building models in open Building Information Model formats. 

In conclusion: Outlook for 2022 and beyond

We've looked at the key trends affecting planning consultations in 2022. The development industry is undergoing rapid changes to become more evidence-led, digital, and aware of impacts. We will see a greater expectation  placed on organisations to communicate consistently and deliver on promises. 

Digital planning tools, such as the PlaceChangers Engagement tool, enable developers, councils, and service partners to engage providing interactive, digital tools, including proposal maps. Data tools such as PlaceChangers Site insights deliver a graphic representation of the area surrounding a particular destination that can be reached on foot within a specific walking time. 

Combining evidence, engagement, and consistent collaboration, tools such as PlaceChangers ensure design teams can deliver on their stakeholders expectations. The digital tools also enable project teams to embed photos, videos, or 360-degree images within a consultation. It is also easy to create participant polls to measure responses by age, gender and other demographic factors. 

And built-in analytics summarise responses, identify key themes, review sentiments and automatically compile visual summaries quickly, easily and iteratively. 

Check out more on our website and our clients' case studies and commentary.

Explore the PlaceChangers planning toolkit

PC Engagement - market leading planning engagement

Set up powerful map surveys and polls based on the changes that may come up on your estate and prioritise future planning interventions more easily. 

Find out more

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. 

Find out more

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