Chatting about community engagement with Young Planners Cymru

Last week we gathered with Arup, Planning Aid and Young Planners Cymru for a session on how community engagement plays a crucial role in planning.

Community engagement may not be a day-to-day aspect of every planner’s job – but it’s a vital skill that the next generation of planners need to grasp.

Today, we need to focus more than ever before on collaborating and involving communities in shaping their local area to help build trust and positive outcomes. We discussed best practice and efforts beyond the standard PAC process.

Karen Probert from Planning Aid kicked off the discussion with the value of community engagement overall. Building on Planning Aid’s 2021 research, there was a focus on how good practice engagement affects communities and planners alike. People are experts in the places they live, so inclusive consultation needs to start early. It can empower communities while improving the quality of a development: building local knowledge and allowing communities to shape the proposals as they develop.

Hannah Dineen from Grasshopper showcased our experience of delivering community engagement programmes for Developments of National Significance and delivering pre-application consultations. She touched on our EDI guide, focusing on consultation that is sensitive to and fulfils the needs of the community affected – and the tools to help achieve that.

In a world still dealing with Covid, what does this consultation look like? Arup introduced its Virtual Engage Platform and talked about the benefits and challenges that digital-only consultations posed in lockdown.

Jack Collard, Planner at Lichfields (and a Grasshopper alumni!) said: “The session was a really useful insight into community engagement. It hit home the human scale of the projects we deliver as planners, and why it’s important to make sure the community is in it with you from the start!”

Events like these are a fantastic way of bringing professionals across the industry together. Cross-sector, we all have one goal: to build places that add meaning and value to people’s lives.