What are examples of best practices for preparing a Statement of Community Involvement for planning applications? Read on to find out.
We have gone through several Statements of Community Involvement for residential planning applications and summarised good practices seen in those community engagement reports.
What is a Statement of Community Involvement for a planning application?
Validation guidance by Braintree Council states "a statement of community involvement explains how the community will be involved in the preparation of the planning application, and the steps that will be taken to encourage this involvement".
A developers’ Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) is a crucial document for your planning application. The report needs to document the activities performed to engage and, more importantly, the response obtained from stakeholders and the local community. Reporting on engagement activities is an exercise for the project owner to revisit the designs and strengthen the proposal's fit to the local area.
In England, a Statement for Community Involvement for major planning applications is required under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act (2004). The engagement report submitted with a planning application to document what engagement activities the design team delivered and the outcomes and learnings.
Undertaking community engagement for major applications is generally expected. Read our article to understand when you are obliged to submit an Statement of Community Involvement with your application.
Documenting and reporting on community engagement can be an extremely rewarding exercise.
Why are formal community engagement reports important?
The Statement of Community Involvement is a mechanism to ensure that your development project addressed and involved residents and that the benefits and potential impacts of the project have been discussed and reviewed by those residents who will be impacted by a construction project.
When producing a Statement of Community Involvement, it helps to clearly envisage the audiences that would be likely to want to read this report:
Six tips for a robust Statements of Community Involvement
Our review of eight master-planned residential schemes showed wide diversity in levels of effort to engage in both types of Statement of Community Involvement. Despite the varying ways of presentation and volume of content, the following tips tend to characterise better quality SCIs:
Visual design and layout
Consider the format and style of the document based on the purpose of the report that you aim to achieve. A document built around the narrative of the engagement activities can be of great interest to the public and be used as a way to advertise the project.
Especially for larger projects, where it counts to communicate with broad audiences, illustrating your points beyond plain text will prompt intrigue and can highlight facts you want to stand out.
Do you need to follow branding or a colour scheme? Will you include graphs and tables to showcase statistics and findings visually?
Below are two examples of SCIs that serve different purposes.
Statements of Community Involvement as comprehensive story
Example from 500+ homes Chapelgarth project (Urbed on behalf of Siglion)
Statements of Community Involvement by the facts
Example from 500+ homes Wawne Road project (ID planning on behalf of Strata Homes)
Readability and visual aids
The language you use should be easy to understand, especially if the Statement of Community Involvement is presented as a public-facing document. Your community should be able to read what has been proposed and digest any points made.
By using too much technical jargon, you risk excluding people you are trying to engage with.
The use of illustrations and images throughout helps make the document come to life.
Example from 500+ homes Chapelgarth project (Urbed on behalf of Siglion). This example provides a visual timeline of how feedback from engagement activities was used to rework the emerging master plan layout.
Understanding of audience characteristics
In terms of substance, effective documentation of who has been spoken to helps demonstrate the audience's scope and scale and presents a robust approach.
Good questions to ask
Example from Carlton Village Phase 1, ±50 homes (Hellens Group)
Inclusion of choices
Productive reports reflected on the scope of change possible in advance of community engagement and reflected on feedback about those choices. Community engagement becomes effective when some changes were offered in respose to feedback received; and reports that consider changes made become powerful conversational tools.
For example, the Statement of Community Involvement below offered a selection of layouts for the eventual site, which proved decisive for the further evolution of the design.
Reporting on choices
Example from Carlton Village Phase 1, ±50 homes (Hellens Group)
While most respondents were against new development, a clear preference for the eventual site layout could be established. This kind of feedback supports effective community engagement.
Focus on outcomes vs description
The key focus of the engagement activity outcomes and your development should be clear from the outset.
Ideally the document will balance equally between descriptions of the project and the matters that arose from public engagement.
It should communicate what details have been captured and how this information was used to understand your audience.
Well balanced reports
Example from Carlton Village Phase 1, ±50 homes (Hellens Group). The ratio of results pages to the rest of the document was 5:3. Meaning that the report mostly worked through the responses received.
An example of a report that balances project context with a well-balanced reflection on the material matters the engagement offered.
Less balanced reports
Example from 2000+ homes Dissington Garden Village (Local Dialogue on behalf of Lugano Group). Here the ratio of results pages to the rest of the report was 1:11 despite the sheer scale of the proposed development.
Despite extensive activities, the report only mentions two responses on one page, communicating doubt about the effectiveness of engagement.
Note: the proposal got rejected.
Clear on the matters that arose
Identify and break down key themes from the engagement activities and the possible actions they identify what has happened in response to feedback.
You will demonstrate a robust design process and instil trust and respect in the place where you build by responding to concerns raised.
Clear summary of themes
Example from 50-home Grange Road scheme (Lichfields on behalf of Bellway). Table or subheadings with individual concerns raised help understand the concerns raised and demonstrate which ones could be addressed and which ones could not.
Creating effective Statement of Community Involvement
Engagement reports for planning applications differ widely in terms of appearance and content. The more your Statement of Community Involvement gives insight into the substance of responses received, the higher the chances of demonstrating a robust design process.
Ask yourself what purpose you want your Statement of Community Involvement to serve and what stakeholder engagement was for?
To help your team, start make use of a dedicated community consultation tool for your planning application. Leading planning consultation tools, such as the PlaceChangers Engagement tool, auto-generate visual community consultation reports, which can be attached to any Statement of Community Involvement for additional impact and transparency.