Tomorrow (May 19) will see the Welsh Government bring into force an amendment Order which will significantly change how consultations are delivered for major development and developments of national significance.

In a guidance note to stakeholders last week, Chief Planner Neil Hemington (Welsh Government/Planning Directorate) provided clarity for developers in a world where public consultation events are not possible. Key points were:

• Removing the requirement to make information available at a public location for inspection
• Developers will now have to host all information online, ensuring the web address and a contact telephone number is clearly displayed on site notices, which are still a requirement, and on all direct communication to local communities.
• Posting hard copies of project information to individuals and groups if requested to mitigate for those with no internet access
• Any community consultation underway when Covid-19 hit will not have complied with the requirements of article 2C(1) and will need to start again to adhere to the new guidance

This will have a huge impact for developers and how they approach consultation and will demand they put digital at the heart of their strategies, along with consideration of wider telephone support for members of the public.

What is clear is that the way things have always been done with public consultation is changing. More creative, digitally-led approaches to engagement and consultation will be required, following four key principles:

Be personal – present your project online with a human face
Be accessible and interactive – enable quality dialogue through webinars, LiveChat, helplines and video consultation sessions
Be engaging – rethink the process for gathering feedback using digital to transform the experience
Be technically compliant – ensure consultation meets the legitimate expectation of communities and stakeholders

The Planning Applications (Temporary Modifications and Disapplication)(Wales)(Coronavirus) Order 2020 (“the Amendment Order") changes key parts of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure)(Wales) Order 2012 (“DMPWO”) and the Developments of National Significance (Procedure)(Wales) Order 2016 (“DNSPWO”).

It will be interesting to see if the Planning Inspectorate issues more specific guidance to help keep project consultations moving forward.

Camargue has developed an approach to delivering consultations using digital to help developers meet these new requirements, including a more intuitive way of gathering consultation feedback that can inform the process in real time.

Mike Conway is a director at Camargue.

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