Poor engagement and communication can lead to a ‘no’ vote.

A second NDP has been voted down in its referendum. The Plan, for the Thornton Estate in Hull, lost by a mere 78 votes, although due to the small turnout the no vote represented 58% of those who voted. According to Planning Resource magazine residents on the estate may have been against the plan mainly because they found out about it only when ballot papers arrived. It seems that, being unable to make an informed decision, many voters decided it was safer to vote against the Plan.

What are the lessons from this?

1. Just a few votes can make the difference, so it’s unsafe to make assumptions that, having got so far in the process, your NDP is bound to be approved.

2. Due to the timescales involved in creating an NDP people can forget that they were probably involved in some way ‘back along’. Also, new residents may have arrived who know nothing of the Plan. It’s important to keep people informed through ALL stages.

3. Creating a publicity and communications strategy during the setting up stages of an NDP, then working at it consistently, can ensure the community is properly engaged and aware of the content of an NDP.

4. Some groups are hard to engage with and keep informed, but can be very motivated if they perceive that their interests could be threatened: make sure you know who these groups are and that they are fully informed.

5. Don’t forget to allocate resources to carrying out quality publicity and communications – they are eligible for grant aid from Locality.

In October 2016, the Swanwick Neighbourhood Plan in Derbyshire was the first NDP to be rejected in a referendum, but this was after the NDP Steering Group campaigned for a ‘no’ vote following a dispute with the Local Planning Authority.

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