Havant Borough embarked on an ambitious journey to involve residents in creating its Local Plan: “Building a Better Future”. Apart from getting valuable insights from as many people as possible, the team also wanted to set the stage for continuous engagement. By leveraging the CitizenLab platform, Havant was able to set up a more collaborative, inclusive, and efficient process. 

Navigating the complexities of Local Plans requires a commitment to continuous engagement with the community, ensuring that diverse perspectives are heard and taken into consideration. 

Recognising the importance of fostering this ongoing dialogue, Havant Borough Council secured funding from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and acquired the CitizenLab platform. It has been instrumental in streamlining communication between the council and the community, making it possible to address the intricate challenges of local planning more effectively and efficiently.

Consultation setup: from complexity to clarity

Flashback to September 2022, when Havant Borough Council began setting up their consultation on the CitizenLab platform. The platform’s configurability played a crucial role in effectively bringing the complex Regulation 18 consultation online. 

By splitting the different areas of consultation – new development, regeneration, etc. – into separate folders, Havant ensured that residents could easily navigate the platform and engage with the topics most relevant to them.

For each of these consultation areas, Havant utilised the CitizenLab platform’s extensive page builder functionalities to clearly present the relevant information. The engagement team was able to provide tailored content that informed residents about the context, goals, and potential impacts of each of the domains. 

Caroline Harvey, Insights Manager at Havant Borough, shared how easy it was to set this all up during our webinar on leveraging online engagement in the Local Planning process:

“I designed this site in a day. Trying to set up face-to-face exhibitions in church halls certainly doesn’t take a day, having to book those and raise awareness. The platform really just gives greater flexibility in how you engage with your audience.”

“By leveraging our platform’s capabilities, Havant Borough was able to create a streamlined and user-friendly consultation process that encourages meaningful engagement. It’s not easy for residents to first have to read through an overwhelming 50-page PDF document before they can comment or share their ideas. By splitting it up in a visual way, you make information accessible and guide residents through each step of the engagement process.”

Rabi Wilson, Government Success Manager UK

Offline meets online

To allow people who might not be so familiar with digital tools to also have their say, Havant chose a hybrid approach to the consultation and also organised in-person events in addition to the use of their CitizenLab platform. Caroline Harvey: “Residents and other stakeholders had the choice between engaging with the online content on Citizenlab or taking part in the offline events. This way, we were able to broaden the reach of our consultation.”

“You can also leverage the wide range of methods to collect input in CitizenLab’s toolbox, from surveys to idea crowdsourcing, during in-person events. The big advantage is that you can bridge the gap between digital and physical engagement: you can rely on the platform’s built-in analytics tools to make sense of the data you collected offline and identify actionable insights, without extra manual input work.”

Rabi Wilson, Government Success Manager UK

Adapting with agility: key for continuous engagement

Local plans are a domain where the journey from consultation to tangible change in reality spans a considerable amount of time. It’s a constantly evolving landscape, influenced by constant shifts in national policy. In such a dynamic environment, it’s crucial to adapt quickly and maintain ongoing engagement with stakeholders to ensure the planning process remains relevant, inclusive, and effective.

During our webinar, Caroline highlighted the benefits of digital engagement to keep stakeholders involved and ensure you hear the diverse perspectives of your population. In her words, traditional engagement methods often require substantial resources and investment, which can be challenging for extended consultations. Digital engagement, on the other hand, allows for a more efficient and cost-effective approach to maintaining ongoing communication with stakeholders.

Caroline also shared how digital engagement enables her and her team to adapt quickly and create truly responsive and effective engagement strategies:

“The CitizenLab engagement platform offers remarkable flexibility in designing and executing our community consultation. It enables us to adapt our approach in real-time, for instance, to respond to national events or news and to address trends in the responses we receive.”

Where are they now?

As Havant Borough Council moves forward with the “Building a Better Future” plan, they are currently carefully considering the consultation comments from residents and preparing the plan. In 2024, the council plans to present the local plan to the community for further feedback before it will be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate.

Harnessing the flexibility of CitizenLab’s platform to break down a complex project has been instrumental in making this Local Plan consultation a success so far. We’re excited to support Caroline and her team with the next phase of engagement, Regulation 19, on the CitizenLab platform. 

Want to find out how our digital engagement platform can help you create more inclusive and continuous engagement? Let’s chat!