Community Planning: Methods
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Consulting on draft plans and proposals is an important step to test whether they have public support and to engage people in finalising them. It can help focus the design process and be an ideal opportunity to generate good ideas. The method can be used for building design, landscaping, or producing plans at all scales.

Draft plans are presented as clearly as possible using text and graphics.

Suitable communication mediums are selected; this will often be a wall mounted exhibition, a printed brochure and a webpage equivalent.

Feedback mechanisms are established; this will often be asking for responses to specific questions and an opportunity for open ended responses.

A report is produced setting out the consultation results and the proposals are amended accordingly.

Feedback is provided to those consulted with on how their input has affected the amended scheme.
Image credit:
Top: NWA and Urbancanda for BBP Regeneration on behalf of English Partnerships;
Bottom: NWA for Halcrow on behalf of Peterborough City Council.

Printed consultation brochures on draft plans
Masterplan for Aylesham, Kent, UK, 2004; Draft development brief for an area around the railway station, Peterborough, UK, 2005.


Sample consultation brochure
Illustrating the key components of a 4 page A4 document with tear off questionnaire. 6 page A4 can also work well and provides more space for explaining the proposals.

Page 1

Page 1 - what the consultation is about, why it is interesting, who is conducting it, how people can get involved, further information sources

page 2

Page 2 - draft plan details and main issues summarised

page 3

Page 3 - Questionnaire with tick box questions relating to main issues, space for open ended comment and collection of personal data for analysis purposes

page 4

Page 4
- Freepost address details.

  • Invest in high quality graphic design and editing. Communicating proposals clearly and concisely is vital if people are to be able to engage effectively.

  • Avoid too much text. Background details and technical material can be made available separately at events and on the internet.

  • Avoid keys on maps. Bubbles with pointers are generally much easier to follow.

  • Allow plenty of time for producing consultation materials; the process of producing them is likely to lead to design team members fine-tuning their ideas.

  • Acrobat Pdf editing is a useful tool for allowing production team members to development consultation materials.
  • The brochure is used as a focus for the consultation process and serves many functions simultaneously. Despite the cost of printing (preferably in colour) it can often be a cost effective solution.

  • Savings can be made by using the same images and design elements for an exhibition, and by using the same software to analyse both the questionnaire and face to face interviews.

  • Main costs: Brochure design; brochure printing; brochure distribution; questionnaire analysis; face to face interviews
Sample timetable
for consultation on a draft neighbourhood plan
    Week 1
    Consultation strategy meeting
    Plan deemed ready to be consulted on by Steering Group / Neighbourhood Forum / local authority / developer. Agree concept of events and publicity methods.

    Weeks 2 - 4
    Consultation materials
    Events plan and brochure design produced by engagement team. Draft Plan fine tuned by design team.

    Week 5
    Brochure printing, website construction

    Week 7
    Brochure distribution
    To all households, businesses, key stakeholders and media

    Weeks 11-13
    Exhibition /open house /open days / workshop

    Week 14
    Sample face to face interviews with a carefully selected sample of the public to test validity of self-completion questionnaire results.

    Weeks 15-18
    Response analysis
    Analyse feedback from questionnaires

    Weeks 19-23
    Amend plan

    Week 26
    Circulate revised plan
    With explanation of how consultation has influenced it. Full report on consultation results made available for those interested.
Note: Timing will depend on complexity of plan and efficiency of design team.
Thanks: Clive Jacotine; Mike Ebbs; Jeremy Brook; Keith Gillies.
Funded by the Building Community Consortium.

Last updated on: 30 August 2011