Why cutting corners on community engagement could cost you later

Property development is a complicated and costly business, but extremely rewarding when a project completes, an investment pays off, and the benefits for a community – or even just a family – are realised.

Irrespective of the scope of a development, securing planning permission is a critical milestone and comes with a range of obstacles a project team must work hard to overcome.

When it comes to the journey from conception to completion, there isn’t a one size fits all formula for successfully managing the challenges along the way. Land acquisition, design, planning, construction, these are all major phases that cost developers substantial amounts of money, each coming with their own risks, and each with their own specialists employed to minimise those risks.

With such out costs, often a long time before any money can be made, it is often the budget for community and stakeholder engagement in the planning process, the specialist PR, that feels the pinch.

Where public consultations and the related engagement support are not properly considered as part of a wider, integrated strategy, it can end up costing developers dearly.

Put simply, a lack of investment in an effective communications strategy can lead to unforeseen challenges, rising costs and potential planning delays, sometimes even refusals.

Without the right strategic communications guidance and on-the-ground support, any one of the following can put a planning application at risk:

There are a number of benefits an expert public consultation and community engagement consultant can provide, potentially saving you thousands of pounds in the long run:

  1. Satisfying national and local authority policy requirements

Planning authorities adopt Statements of Community Involvement, providing guidance on what is expected from public consultation within their community.

Ensuring that national and local guidelines are adhered to is the first and most fundamental service a specialist Property PR team will provide, and a crucial factor in reducing the risk of planning delays and the associated costs.

These services include creating an accessible public consultation (both physical and virtual), ensuring it is properly publicised and that all interested parties are able to ask questions, gain further information and provide feedback on the scheme.

  1. Identify opposition from the outset

The best way to manage objectors is to establish open channels of communication and ensure they are properly monitored, so any negativity is effectively managed and, where possible, nipped in the bud.

Some objectors will never be appeased, but unfortunately, rumours and mistruths are also abundant in planning, especially in small and close-knit communities. By having a professional communications consultant on board with their ear to the ground, you can promptly and effectively address these issues. Whether it’s outright opposition from NIMBYs or BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody) or those with understandable concerns, misinformation can be used to fuel the fire of a negative campaign and can prove fatal if not dealt with accordingly.

With the right strategy and team in place, issues can be identified early and addressed before they become detrimental to a planning application.

  1. Gain valuable insight

You should never underestimate what an experienced Property PR consultant can bring to the planning process in terms of experience with local people, councillors and media. From the attitude of news editors to internal politics within a particular authority, public affairs and engagement work will prove invaluable, and potential hazards may be spotted which other consultants may not have considered.

Once again, it’s all about saving money and stress later by investing appropriately at the outset.

Gough Bailey Wright has unrivalled experience with housing, retail, employment and mixed-use developments, many with significant infrastructure considerations. As a full-service agency, we provide websites and digital communications, social media, media relations, creative copy and design, print and production, events and one-on-one engagement; everything needed to deliver successful public consultations within suitable budgets.

If you’d like more information on how we could support your next planning application, please contact the team on 01527 579 555 or email info@gough.co.uk.