Did you happen to read a copy of The Sunday Telegraph on New Year’s Eve? If you’re like me, your answer may well be a simple ‘No’. I actually spent this New Year’s Eve baking a cheesecake. It was delicious – and potentially a topic for another blog, depending on the patience of our website manager.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that the number of planning disputes reaching the High Court has soared to an 11-year high, with 215 enjoying that dubious honour in 2017.

What does The Sunday Telegraph put this surge in planning litigation down to? The power of social media.

This is something we are all too familiar with. Fifteen years ago, a press release announcing a controversial planning proposal might have precipitated discontented letters to the local newspaper and the threat of a public meeting. Only the rarest of opponents would be able to mould local residents’ energy into a viable campaign.

After all, 15 years ago who had the time and personal network to quickly build an anti-development group?

Fast forward to 2018. How long does it take to set up a ‘No to development X!’ Facebook group? Or a ‘Save our building Y’ Twitter hashtag? For those who know how, 10 minutes?

Within those 10 minutes, Facebook and Twitter can become a magnet for opponents to a scheme, and can lead to the spawning of energetic, effective opposition groups. No longer are opponents waiting for the next campaign meeting to share information, or a flyer through the door to alert them on how they can get involved in the fight against a proposal Instead, they have a 24 / 7 resource, where people from all backgrounds and walks of life can come together, on their own terms, and fight development.

This is a challenge.

I can’t write to say I have a silver bullet which can overcome social media challenges and guarantee development success. The truth is, the property communications landscape has fundamentally changed, and it is not changing back any time soon.

What I can do is offer some advice. Get on the front foot. It’s no longer good enough to announce a proposal by writing to the 10 closest properties and the Ward Councillor. You’ll look like you’re hiding, and only make your problems worse.

Ensure you’re out there. Distribute a promotional brochure. Launch a website. Talk to our digital experts, who can make sure that the day your proposals go live, people have access to information about the benefits they will bring to a community.

We can never stop objector groups from being formed. And in a democratic society, we should never try to. But 2018 is going to be the year where information becomes the most valuable commodity we have. So get involved in the conversation, start shouting about your proposals, and make sure that social media becomes an opportunity, not a barrier to delivery.