Statement of Community Involvement for Planning Draft Consultation - January 2020

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6. Local Planning – Methods of Consultation

6.1 Some of the methods we can use for community involvement are listed in the table below. The list is not definitive but it includes those methods which we consider to be the most effective, practical and cost effective for preparing the local plan and supplementary planning documents. We will use a variety of these methods to engage and consult with the community as and where appropriate.

Table 4 : Methods of consultation for local planning consultations

Methods for notifying and consulting

Comments

Council Offices and Libraries

Copies of consultation documents will be placed at the Council Offices and in the local libraries across the District. These will be available for inspection during normal opening times. As well as paper copies our reception provides access to a computer linked to the NHDC website for those who cannot access or easily use the internet.

Letters and email

It is a statutory requirement that all statutory consultees are notified in writing (which maybe by email) when a document is published for consultation. In some circumstances a number of general consultees may also be notified in writing, where a document may be of particular interest.

The council will encourage greater use of email in the future as this helps to reduce costs.

Website

It is a statutory requirement that documents are available to view on the council's website; www.north-herts.gov.uk

The website will also include information and updates on the local plan and background documents supporting the local plan. There will also be the opportunity to comment directly on consultation documents through the website during open consultation periods.

Advertisements

The council usually publicises all major consultations for the local plan in the local newspapers which are circulated in the District. This presently includes The Comet, The Royston Crow and the Luton Herald and Post. However, advertisements in local newspapers are not used for neighbourhood planning consultations as the newspapers are not necessarily available in these communities. The following types of planning applications are advertised in local newspapers; major planning applications; departures from the development plan; listed building consents and conservation area consents.

Local Media

Press releases are prepared at the start of the consultation period for local plan documents. These can be supplemented during the consultation period where particular issues are raised or to further raise awareness.

Town, Parish and Community Councils

The council will consult the Town, Parish and Community Councils within the local authority area and in adjoining local authority areas where appropriate.

The council will also encourage the Town and Parish Councils to use their own newsletters, magazines and notice boards to further publicise consultations for the local plan, supplementary planning documents (where relevant) and neighbourhood plans.

Exhibitions

In some circumstances the council may decide to hold exhibitions to help explain the content of a consultation document.

However, exhibitions can be expensive to stage in terms of exhibition material, publicity, venue charges and staff time and we need to carefully balance the benefits of these events against the impact on relevant services.

Focus Groups / Discussion Workshops

Focus groups or discussion groups may be used by the council to explore selected issues with particular groups within the community. These groups can be expensive to run and require significant amounts of staff time, however participants can be recruited from the council's Citizens Panel database. They may provide an opportunity to explore issues in some depth and gain detailed and focussed comments.

Posters and Leaflets

Posters and leaflets can be a useful and immediate way to draw attention to a local plan consultation.

Posters can be particularly effective where there are community notice boards and large numbers of people passing them.

There are however issues to be considered in producing leaflets as they can be relatively expensive if delivered to every household and business in the District.

NHDC Outlook Magazine

We have consistently used Outlook to inform residents and local businesses about preparation of the local plan. However, the publication dates for the council's newsletter do not always coincide with consultation periods. We will continue to provide updates on the local plan through Outlook when appropriate.

Social Media

The council uses Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to inform residents, local groups and organisations about consultations for the local plan, supplementary planning documents and neighbourhood plans. The use of social media may increase in importance as a method of raising awareness of the issues and documents being prepared for consultation as well as the publicising the methods of responding to a consultation. For example, the Council has a YouTube channel but there is only very limited content on it at present. At the moment, the Council is not using these social media outlets as a mechanism for collecting consultation responses.

Questionnaires and Surveys

Questionnaires and surveys can be an effective way of gaining focussed views on a consultation document, particularly in the early stages of the local planning process.

Response forms

The council provides a response form for all local plan consultations. These are accepted in addition to responses by email or correspondence.

Use of existing partnerships, forums and panels

These organisations, such as the North Hertfordshire Partnership (LSP), the Local Enterprise Partnership, local educational establishments and the North Herts Health and Wellbeing Partnership can provide representative views from a range of organisations and agencies as well as specific community groups.

6.2 Comments in response to a consultation document can be made by:

  • using the council's online consultation software;
  • email; or
  • in writing.

Full details of how to make comments are included in all consultation documents and in the advertisements that the council places in local newspapers.

6.3 In some instances, the council receives hard copy petitions in response to local plan consultation documents. For the purposes of recording representations made in this way, the subject of the petition will be noted as a representation and the person responsible for submitting the petition will be recorded and will be kept informed of the progress on the Local Plan. The signatories to the petition will not be recorded or added to the local plan database but the number of signatories will be recorded. The Council will treat on-line petitions in the same way.

6.4 Increasingly, comments and objections are posted onto social media web pages and on-line petitions. There are a wide variety of social media pages and groups of which the council is not necessarily aware, e.g private Facebook groups and does not have the resources to monitor the activity on these sites. Comments and objections made in this way therefore will not be taken into account when formally considering all the representations made in response to a consultation document, unless they have been formally submitted to the council, in which case they will be recorded and considered in accordance with paragraph 6.3. Comments made on the council's own Twitter feed and Facebook page will be monitored but will not be taken as formal representations to a local planning consultation.

6.5 Comments are sometimes submitted to councillors and other elected representatives by email, letter or by other methods. These comments will not be considered as formal representations, unless they are copied to the Strategic Planning team within the consultation period.

6.6 Comments by telephone are not accepted as formal representations to consultation documents.


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