In early 2021, Homes England acquired land at West Lane, Ripon, to progress and submit a Reserved Matters Approval Application for 390 new homes within a tight timescale.
The site has an interesting planning history. Council members refused an outline planning application by Gladman Developments in 2018; the Secretary of State subsequently granted the application on appeal. The outline permission led to more detailed planning proposals that were, in the end, not pursued by housebuilders. In 2020, the site was allocated - as an existing commitment - for residential development in the Harrogate District Local Plan.
West Lane is a sensitive location for development, relatively close to a World Heritage Site and Registered Park and Garden. There are two locally protected areas of nature conservation nearby.
In the approach to engagement, it was fundamentally important to communicate which parameters of the outline planning permission were already approved and therefore could not easily be changed. Therefore, community and stakeholder consultation needed to focus on the specific planning and design matters to build upon the established project parameters.
What was done
PlaceChangers advised the project team on arranging two online engagement activities aligned with their design process, together with a stakeholder event at a midpoint in pre-application preparations:
PlaceChangers provided a project page that summarised project milestones, presented the project team and offered respondents the option to subscribe to the project for updates. For boosting awareness of the proposal, PlaceChangers sent personalised postcards to local households alongside Facebook notices.
Despite the short timescale for this project, the team successfully developed a meaningful relationship with immediate neighbours to the site, with community groups and other key stakeholders. With the help of the engagement campaigns on the PlaceChangers platform, the design team engaged far and wide.
Given the extended planning history of the site, the local community was somewhat ambivalent about the detail of the proposals. However, with time, feedback on earlier engagement stages enabled the team to build support with immediate neighbours and the wider community. The team could demonstrate, mainly via PlaceChangers, how their responses to specific aspects in the design were being picked up and integrated into the Reserved Matters Approval Application itself.
In the last engagement stage, respondents appreciated that the site design was of high quality. They were comfortable that the design team had considered the implications of the project to the neighbourhood through agreed developer contributions. The team resolved key concerns concerning flooding, or the natural environment, in the final design. The team envisaged a walkable sustainable neighbourhood that would provide benefits for neighbours through new shared greenspace and investments in the local infrastructure; the local community understood this to be the case.
The project remains accessible online: https://app.placechangers.co.uk/site/198/page
"The timescale for this project and the volumes of technical assessment that had to be updated and communicated via the pre-application process were considerable challenges. PlaceChangers was very responsive throughout, which helped a lot. The platform supported a succinct and well-managed, sequential engagement strategy that informed users of the emerging masterplan design and kept all stakeholders up to date."
Director, JDDK Architects
"In absence of being able to meet in person, the consultation programme was very successful. Being able to offer quite specific information that people can locate on a big site helped us to create more targeted conversations that moved the design forward."