Statement of Community Involvement (Draft Sept 2019)

Ended on the 8 January 2020
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5: Consulting on Planning Policy Documents:

5.1 Who will be consulted

5.1.1 The requirements for whom to consult can vary depending on the type of policy document being produced and its stage of preparation. Who the Council consults will therefore differ according to circumstance, but in all cases it will meet the minimum requirements of relevant legislation.

5.1.2 At certain statutory stages of preparation the Council is required to consult and invite specific and general consultation bodies (set out in legislation) to participate in the process. A list of these is provided at Appendix 1. Where the Council considers it appropriate and beneficial it may consider broadening the scope of any consultation beyond the minimum.

5.1.3 The Council has established a contact database of groups, individuals and other interested parties who have expressed an interest in planning policy and a wish to be kept informed when policy documents are published. The database covers the local and extended community and includes residents, local business and business groups, parish councils, neighbourhood plan groups, community associations, special interest groups, charities / voluntary organisations, land owners, agents and developers, and more. Anyone wishing to be added to this database should contact; planningpolicy@harborough.gov.uk.

Question 2: Are there any local groups that you think ought to be on the Council's contact database? If so, please provide contact details.

5.1.4 The contact database will be held in accordance with Council procedures on General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and its Document Retention and Disposal Policy. Those on the database will be regularly encouraged to keep their contact details up to date. The database will be amended should any individual or party request removal, or if correspondence is returned to sender following mail outs.

5.1.5 Seldom heard groups (those that have less chance or willingness to get involved, and are generally less likely to engage with the planning process) are also represented on the contact database. Seldom heard groups such as: young or elderly people; the Gypsy and Traveller communities; people with disabilities or learning difficulties; and minority or religious groups can have particular barriers to or be discouraged from being involved. The Council will help to make the planning process more accessible and transparent and provide opportunities for seldom heard groups to participate in line with the Council's Equality Plan 2017 to 2020.

Question 3: How can the Council encourage seldom heard groups to participate in the planning service? Please provide detail.

5.2 How will consultation be carried out?

5.2.1 The Council will meet the minimum requirements of legislation and be guided by past experience about what works best when carrying out consultation on planning policy documents.

5.2.2 In order to ensure that consultation is fit for purpose the most effective methods and techniques of consulting will be determined based on what document is being consulted on, the stage of consultation, who is being consulted, the type of information that needs to be obtained, and the level of resources available at the time (including officer time and finances). It is important to note the distinction between statutory (or formal) stages of plan production, required and governed by legislation, and ongoing consultation with the community. Consultation methods and techniques will vary depending on the stage of plan production.

5.2.3 The Council aims to carry out consultation exercises in a way that maximises value for money and enables as many people to engage as effectively as possible. To ensure effective consultation, at statutory stages, the Council will:

  • Place consultation documentation on the website; www.harborough.gov.uk together with details on how and when to respond;
  • Make all consultation documents available to view at the Council Offices during the consultation period;
  • Inform all specific consultation bodies and those on the contact database of any consultation by email or letter;
  • Provide details of the consultation itself including; where information can be viewed, the period of consultation, including deadlines, and instructions for how to respond.

5.2.4 Methods and channels for engaging and consulting are continually evolving. The Council will strive to continuously improve the way in which it consults through being innovative, proactive and efficient. The use of the internet is important and the Council will continue to use an online consultation system to publicise, manage and analyse representations made during consultations for policy documents. Those participating in consultations will be encouraged to respond on-line, reflecting the Council's commitment to provide accessible online services.

Question 4: How can the Council best support interested parties; particularly statutory bodies, agents & professional parties, to submit representations / comments to consultations online?

5.2.5 Planning policy consultations will also, as appropriate, be promoted through:

  • Local Media: the Council will issue media releases, where relevant to local press , radio and publications on our distribution list. These will include details of the consultation, as appropriate.
  • Council Publications: where the Council has a regular publication i.e. a newsletter or magazine and if timescales allow, articles will be included to update and advise the community on progress with planning policy documents or consultations.
  • Social Media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be used by the Council, as appropriate, to raise awareness, encourage involvement and direct users to access consultation information on the Council's website.

5.2.6 In addition consideration may be given to other methods or techniques such as: public exhibitions, public meetings, questionnaires / leaflets, presentations or workshops. It is important to note the distinction between statutory (or formal) stages of plan production, required and governed by legislation, and ongoing consultation with the community. Consultation methods and techniques will vary depending on the stage of plan production.

5.2.7 Copies of consultation documents can be made available in alternative formats e.g. large print, audio or alternative languages on request. To find out more information about this refer to the equality and diversity pages of the Council's website; Equality and diversity.

5.3 Timescales

5.3.1 Timescales for statutory stages of consultation on planning policy documents are set out in regulations and will be adhered to by the Council. Where the duration of consultation periods is not defined, or the Council chooses to conduct extra rounds of consultation, it will consider what the most appropriate timescale should be and publicise accordingly. Typically consultation periods for development plan documents are 6 weeks and for SPDs 4 weeks.

Question 5: Is the minimum 6 week consultation period sufficient for effective consultation? Yes / No.

5.3.2 The Council will aim to avoid holding consultations during main holiday periods. In circumstances where this is not possible, due to the need to produce documents in a timely manner, the Council will consider whether it is possible to extend the consultation period by a proportionate amount of time.

5.3.3 The start and finish dates for consultation periods will be clearly communicated, with deadlines for the submission of comments / representations emphasised. It is important that formal timescales set for consultations by the Council are adhered to. Late responses at statutory stages will not be considered to be 'duly made' and at this or other stages will be kept on file but may not be considered.

5.4 How we will deal with comments

5.4.1 The Council will consider all representations made within defined consultation periods.

5.4.2 Representations will be handled in line with regulations. Details of respondents to consultations will be kept on the contact database (subject to Data Protection requirements) and these respondents will then be kept notified of the progress of documents they have previously commented on, unless they request otherwise. Any comments or representations which contain offensive language or could be deemed discriminatory, in the opinion of the Council, will be censored or redacted prior to any publication.

5.4.3 Where required by regulations responses to public consultations will be made publically available. Typically, at statutory stages of plan preparation, this will take the form of quantitative data, a summary of the main issues raised by representations and how those issues have been taken into account.

5.4.4 All representations received at the submission stage of a development plan document will be forwarded to the appointed Planning Inspector for consideration, prior to any examination.

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