During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Advance Northumberland, Northumberland County Council's economic regeneration company, was looking to engage with local residents on proposals for two affordable housing projects on smaller infill sites.
- Klondyke in East Cramlington: A housing project for 14 affordable homes
- Lysdon Avenue in New Hartley: A project for 9 affordable homes.
These housing projects were focused on in-fill sites in existing communities. Each site was already occupied by garages. Despite their small size, both projects would not be uncontroversial. The pre-application consultation was likely to raise issues from existing users and nearby residents around parking in particular.
Advance Northumberland was therefore keen to share their plans with the community, to gather feedback, to understand levels of support for the projects and which aspects to improve for the planning application.
What was done
As part of the pre-application consultation, local residents had the opportunity to leave both general feedback as well as targeted comments on the proposed site layouts via the PlaceChangers platform over a timeframe of two weeks.
Using the proposed site layout and visualisations for core aspects of the proposals, project architects from IDP Northern set up an interactive proposal maps: The consultation featured information on housing types, and improvements on site, and nearby. Boundary treatments for Lysdon site were key and the team pointed out which trees would be retained, for instance.
For consultation publicity, PlaceChangers provided a promotion package that consisted of invitation notices for post cards and targeted Facebook adverts. PlaceChangers sent over 600 personalised consultation invitation notices to neighbours near each site with general information about the pre-application consultation and how to respond.
The pre-application consultations enabled the team to adapt the design and be better prepared to respond to the parking and access issues raised during the planning application process.
29 respondents responded to proposed design for Lysdon Avenue whereas 67 neighbours responded to the pre-app consultation for Kondyke.
Compared to previous consultations, a greater number of younger people participated. For Lysdon Avenue, 40% of respondents were between 25 and 44 years old. For Klondyke, the figure was 38%.
Commentary via the interactive proposal map also lead to more targeted feedback. The response to the Klondyke project was insightful. Here 67 respondents left 96 responses to 34 features on site, and they also created 11 further ideas directly on the map. As is often the nature with residential projects, most respondents were critical of the developments. Feedback through the proposal map enabled the public to point out how parking provision nearby is used, and present issues with particular intersections that were key for access to the site.
The PlaceChangers platform also enabled regular reporting and a structured response report that Hedley could include in their Statement for Community Involvement.
“The level of insight from PlaceChangers consultations exceeded our expectations and allowed us to run successful consultation events online. The greater level of interactivity allowed people to point out certain issues on or near the site to us, which provides us with more information and enables us to amend proposals as and when necessary. The process also afforded us greater flexibility than with scheduled public exhibitions.”
Senior Land Manager, Advance Northumberland
“For us, the PlaceChangers platform provides a convenient way to arrange powerful interactive consultations for our clients. We were able to receive responses from all demographics and pro-actively interact with the community in new and interactive ways. The post-event analysis reports published by Placechangers are a useful inclusion within a Statement of Community Involvement, and information the Council valued. The platform is a powerful tool for engaging the public, informing the Council and updating the client.”
Director, Hedley Planning Services