Engaging people with planning
One of the most important things to do as a councillor is to engage with local residents to find out what their views are on potential planning developments and the local plan.
There are lots of good ways to do this, such as by holding meetings, running surveys and questionnaires, holding open meetings, and so on.
However, with the advent of social media and the ease of publishing and interacting online, there are more ways than ever to get people involved. Some of the advantages of using the internet to engage people include:
- it doesn’t require people to be in a certain time at a certain place – they can contribute when it is convenient to them
- people who lack the confidence to speak in meetings or other face to face environments can still have their say
- if people can interact using their smartphones, they can engage whilst on the move
- it attracts a completely different audience to those that usually get involved in local government
Below we describe some of the free, quick and easy to use tools that a councillor or parish council could use to engage people online with local planning.
Twitter is a website that allows you to publish short messages (up to 140 characters in length) online – these messages are called ‘Tweets’. Twitter is a really useful way of getting messages out to people, and it is now used widely throughout local government, politics and the media. Several parish, town and community councils and councillors have Twitter accounts to keep residents informed and to canvas their views.
Facebook is the world’s biggest social network, with nearly a billion active users worldwide! It is a social network, where people create a profile and connect with their friends and family to share news, information, photos and so on. Increasingly it is also used by organisations to share information and to interact with people who are interested in them.
A blog is a regularly updated website, where the latest articles appear at the top of the homepage. They are great for keeping people informed as to what you are up to, and for canvassing people’s opinions. Many councillors and other public figures use blogs as a means of getting their message published without jumping through the traditional media hoops.
Flickr is a website for sharing photos. Photos are a great way of engaging people online – they’re a classic way of getting people’s attention! You can also use Flickr to find photos that other people have taken – so if you want to find the best online photographs of your village, it’s really easy to do so.
If Facebook is a social network, then LinkedIn is a professional network. People sign up and list details of their careers and qualifications, and they connect with people they have worked with. It’s a great community in particular for people interested in business and many local councils use LinkedIn to find out what entrepreneurs think about local issues.