The Benefits of Community Consultation

Working with the community rather than working against it is an approach Linedota Architects favour when it comes to the planning of new buildings and sometimes the refurbishment of old ones. With the advent of the Localism agenda, community consultation for planning applications will become compulsory. Linedota Architects have been involved in detailed community consultations at all levels and are well placed to meet the needs of communities now that the National Planning Policy Framework is introduced. Indeed, through our work at the London Chamber of Commerce, Property and Construction Committee, we have played an active role consulting with Government ministers on the changes.

Aside from meeting with policy makers, our experience includes working in Africa where we have conducted focus group meetings with men, women and children, both together and separately. We have even been called upon to address a funeral gathering – an important opportunity to communicate with all sections of a community in remote rural parts of Uganda and other countries in Africa.

Closer to home, we have worked with residents groups such as the Dorset House Tenants Association, area associations such as the St Marylebone Society, who are statutory consultees to local planning authorities, and community groups campaigning and working around a single issue such as the Save All Hallows Campaign that wanted to protect their community garden against a development by Southwark Cathedral. In providing clear, authoritative advice to stakeholders, we have helped to build consensus that has led to resolution of seemingly intractable community development issues.

We have also worked for developers as well as individuals who wanted to build, and who felt that their proposals would be beneficial to the community, but who faced local opposition. In aiming to help build trust between the parties we have often found that the gap separating them can be bridged.

Consultation is about listening and responding to concerns in a meaningful way. This usually means informing, altering or modifying the design of a proposed building to remove or avoid the objection, but it can go deeper.

There will always be those opposing or promoting a particular development for political reasons. Sometimes individuals would rather keep things the way they are. But our experience has shown that where meaningful consultation can be conducted, and there is a chance to respond to it, a solution can often be found that gets things moving for the better.