October 28, 2018

Sebastian Weise

Community engagement: 4 key aspects that raise support for your construction project

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When planning the master plan for a new development, it is natural to have some doubts about which aspects of the design may turn out to be controversial to external stakeholders and the public. Will the proposal fly or tank? And if it’s the latter, what are the main objections? 

Generally, the more significant the proposal in respect to the context where the proposal is made, the more the proposal will attract interest and potentially also receive objections on a wide range of grounds. In this blog, we provide some suggestions for what to do to garner support for your project with a more social engaged approach around the value add to the local community. 

Any proposed change has benefits and draw backs. It is important to show the benefit that are planned, and understand whether those views are shared. If they are not shared, it is good to understand the range of ideas and suggests from residents that may deliver improvments. 

A study by market research agency YouGov and Shelter on the ‘silent majority’
established that an astonishing 69% of respondents were positive or neutral about house building in their area. Even across age groups, supporters tended to outnumber opponents by 5 to 3, subverting the common notion that new developments are immediately viewed negatively by the community. 

Increase support from local audiences by relating to local concerns

YouGov and Shelter’s research suggests that it pays to consider what elements in your project appeal to specific stakeholders and communicate that clearly. The YouGov study asked respondents to imagine a proposal for a new housing project in their local area and choose amongst a range of scenarios that may make them more likely to support a project.

We have summarised these scenarios into four broad categories: neighbourhood improvements, the architectural design, aspects relating to project tenure, and the inclusiveness of the design process (see below).

Where to focus your engagement messages

  • Neighbourhood improvements (41% more likely to support): New development projects can have a strong positive impact for an area, and improvements to local infrastructure (roads, community facilities, services, improvements to local people) are crucial aspects to attract support for a project. Sometimes, small improvements are equally important, such as fencing and similar smaller investments. In addition to direct financial contributions, consider indirect outcomes, such as protecting the availability of local services (e.g. post office, bank facility, doctor practices) and jobs.
  • Design of the project (30% more likely to support): This relates to how your development will be experienced, both by occupants and those visiting the area. For garnering support, build quality such as the environmental friendliness of the design, and the way it would connect to the buildings nearby is secondary to neighbourhood improvements, but important nonetheless. Projects can consider access routes, green space, and other public realm improvements.
  • Project tenure (23% more likely to support): The project has a greater chance of support if includes an element of affordable housing or social housing available for local people. Generally, it suggests communities prefer mixed-use developments that also provide suitable new living space for local people.
  • Inclusivity of the design process (12% more likely to support): This can be an important additional component in garnering support for your project, especially if the existing site is inhabited. While the least likely to generate support, it can still be a deciding factor in some cases and may be more relevant to larger projects with a social contribution, such as estate regeneration projects in urban areas.

Takeaways for your approach to community engagement

Think about the selling points of your proposal. Be sure to present those selling points in your planning consultation and gather responses on each.  

Develop an engagement approach that can capture the voices of relevant audiences beyond the immediate vicinity on the ideal value add of your scheme.  

Consider embedding accessible visualisations of your proposals in your community engagement that clarify key features on site. Furthermore, it helps to capture feedback also on the surrounding area beyond your site. 

The simplest way to do so is by offering lightweight, easy-to-use, and interactive engagement opportunities that succceeds at capturing suggestions that can improve your proposal while staying within the business case.


Interested to layer on interactive online engagement to your development or planning project?  

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