Editor’s comment: Something went wrong with Local Plan consultation

PUBLISHED: 08:00 13 January 2018

Whenever a planning application is made to build homes somewhere in the borough, there will be neighbours objecting.

And yet just 129 people responded to the council’s public consultation on its housing plans for the next 13 years.

Was that because of apathy, or because the consultation process was too complicated?

Comments on our Facebook page suggest the latter.

One reader said: “It was hard to access complex lengthy documents, maps were dreadful quality (online and at libraries), details of exact proposed locations were buried in appendices, the total number of homes required by Sadiq Khan aren’t even listed, etc”.

Another said: “Did they make the consultation accessible? Did they do everything they could to engage people in different ways via public meetings, focus groups & face to face. I would suspect not. Not everyone is able to read complex documents or use the internet.”

The Recorder announced the public consultation in August and our web story included a link to the Local Plan and consultation.

And the council held drop-in sessions at libraries throughout Havering in September for those who wanted to ask questions.

But just 129 responses suggests something went wrong.

The council must have expected a much larger response – we all know that proposals for development generate a lot of opposition. And plans to build on green belt land always attract strong debate.

A consultation period of less than two months during the summer – when lots of people will have been away on holiday – was no doubt part of the problem.

If the council really wanted to give people a chance to have their say it probably should have organised a series of public meetings, both evenings and daytime outside the popular holiday season.

The Local Plan is shaping housing provision for the next 13 years and people need to feel they have been listened to.

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