9 out of 10 responses to Local Plan consultation were from outside Slough
Slough’s consultation into options for its new Local Plan was successful in reaching a broad brush of those statutory consultees it must reach out to. But only a handful of its own residents took part.
Slough’s consultation on options for its new Local Plan reached well over 20,000 people but council officers have warned that the response “cannot be relied upon” as most who responded came from outside the borough.
There were around 500 responses from the general public, but very few came from Slough. The “vast majority of responses” came from people who were objecting to the proposed option to build a Northern Expansion of Slough in South Bucks.
Planning Committee members were told last month that the response to the consultation had seen “a mix of individuals, community groups, landowners and developers and other local authorities”, and had been successful in obtaining responses from most of the “specific consultation” bodies. This was “very good”, according to a report prepared by Paul Stimpson, Planning Policy Lead Officer, and “provides a basis for developing the next stage of the Local Plan”, ticking boxes in the regulatory process.
But as a result of the poor local representation, the consultation response cannot be relied upon as a conclusive proof of public opinion.
There was, however, some success in the Council’s engagement strategy as it explored the use of social media to reach out further.
A targeted advert to people geographically near Slough reached 23,688 people and generated 371 “comments”, “shares” or “likes”. This reached a new audience of people who had not expressed an interest in the Plan. The Communications team also posted a number of tweets about the consultation and posted on the Councils ‘Streetlife’ page.
This was the first time we have used social media in this way and it has been a useful tool in raising awareness about the Plan.
While its foray into consulting over social media saw good results, comments posted won’t be given as much weight as those who submitted contributions directly:
“The breadth and informal nature of the responses means they can only be taken into account generally rather than specifically, however it has enabled the plan to reach a new audience and, resources permitting will be used again”.
Slough has drawn some confidence in the consultation results. In spite of the overwhelming opposition to its plan for a northern expansion into South Bucks, “no significant new proposals for development” were put forward in the consultation. The Council says this means that “it could be concluded that there are no reasonable options which could accommodate all of Slough’s housing and employment needs within the Borough boundary”.