IHBC Yearbook 2021

R E V I E W A N D A N A L Y S I S 23 PUBLIC CONSULTATION and ENGAGEMENT CHARLOTTE BOWLES-LEWIS and CLAIRE DOVEY-EVANS WHEN FACED with a person holding a clipboard in the street most of us put our heads down and walk on by. However, not everyone is selling something we neither need nor want and there is a danger that we will miss the important stuff. Public consultations on issues affecting the community are particularly vulnerable, and unless the message stands out from the crowd, we may miss the chance to have our say on important discussions affecting our community. With Covid-19 restrictions it is unlikely that we will meet someone face to face at the moment, but there may be a social media poll, virtual meeting, or survey online we could contribute to, if our attention can only be caught for a moment and engaged. For those of us who work within a local authority in England or Wales, councils are required to prepare a ’statement of community involvement’ (under Section 18 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004) which sets out when and how they will consult when preparing new plans and in determining significant planning applications. This requirement to consult and engage is important, but how do we engage and consult effectively? How can we avoid consultation fatigue? There is a further question regarding consultation in the context of grant awards such as from the National Lottery Heritage Fund or through a government regeneration scheme. In these cases, are there any additional requirements? Should we be doing things differently or do we simply follow the standard requirements? At Gloucester City Council we use a range of consultation techniques in seeking to engage with different groups to establish the most effective means of enabling all our communities to make their views known and help shape the city. Some people will prefer direct contact with the council, either face-to-face or over the phone. Others may prefer communicating through the web, emails, or text messaging. Some may need directly targeted communication because of disability, culture, language, or literacy factors. It is vital though, to engage with people and to get their ideas and opinions. And not just because we are told that we have to. The success and long-term sustainability of a project and its aims and values rest on making sure the audience understands what we are trying to do, supports what we are trying to do and feels involved with the process. It is important to open the channels of communication. To be successful, there is a need to embed the principles of the project within the local community, which can take time. In Gloucester, we have delivered a successful Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) in the Southgate Street area of the city, and we have just completed year one of a High Street Heritage Action Zone scheme in the Cathedral Quarter of the city. We have learnt from the evaluation of the THI, and we are implementing that learning into our Cathedral Quarter project. Working with Historic England we have produced The Fabularium actors, ‘Firm Footings’ and ‘Faulty Bearings’ engaging people under 30 in the future plans for their city