by Ed Dade MRTPI
Consult is a new, interactive and user-friendly online service for consulting on Neighbourhood Plans.
Consultation and community engagement are at the heart of neighbourhood planning. The Consult app provides an interactive web-based approach to online Neighbourhood Plan consultation.
Neighbourhood planning gives communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development and growth of their local area...
Whilst the preparation of Neighbourhood Plans is led by the respective town council, parish council or Neighbourhood Forum for the local area, the views of members of the community are essential in developing a shared vision.
Preparing a Neighbourhood Plan involves several stages of informal and formal consultation and community engagement.
It can often be tricky to gather views from a representative cross-section of the community. Some groups are 'hard to reach', others may feel they are simply too busy to get involved.
Increasingly, people are used to doing things online, using a range of devices. Whilst it is common-place to access Neighbourhood Plan documents online, consultations usually lack an interactive experience for respondents and are often not easily readable on smaller devices such as phones and tablets.
Making it easier to navigate and take part in Neighbourhood Plan consultations, will encourage more people to have their say.
As a chartered Town Planner and web developer, I have sought to tackle this problem. I have developed Consult to provide an intuitive, user-friendly and interactive way of doing Neighbourhood Plan consultation.
Consult looks great on a range of devices, including smaller screens. This enables people to read and comment on Neighbourhood Plans, even from a mobile phone or tablet.
During formal consultation periods, each section includes an online comment form. After signing up, users can easily and intuitively add their comments to the relevant section of the plan. This helps to ensure people add their comments in the right place.
Formal consultation periods are strictly enforced. Users of the site will only be able to comment on a plan whilst the consultation is open.
After moderation, comments are displayed below the corresponding section of the plan, allowing people to read comments others have made. This will help give reassure people that their views matter, as their comments will be on public display.
To make analysing responses simple, following close of consultation the Parish Council / Neighbourhood Forum will receive a report of all comments received.
The online consultation process will principally be managed by myself. This means parish councils and neighbourhood forums can enjoy the benefits of the Consult app, without needing to be tech savvy.
Full details of the service you can expect are explained at Get 'Consult' for your Neighbourhood Plan.