- Property, healthcare
- Public consultation, stakeholder engagement
The Disabilities Trust, in partnership with HBD, proposed to bring forward plans for new specialist healthcare building to rehabilitate people with Acquired Brain Injuries at land south of The Residence on the Chocolate Works site in York.
After more than 20 years of operating from York House at The Retreat on Heslington Road, the facility was closing, requiring The Disabilities Trust to move its operations. A site at the Chocolate Works was identified to deliver a new purpose-built facility and retain the vital mental health service in York.
A previous planning application for a residential development on the site had been refused in 2020, owing to a strong community backlash against development on this site.
Prior to the launch of the pre-app public consultation, we met with local business, civic, and political leaders to introduce them to the plans. These meetings provided a forum to receive initial feedback on the new scheme, identify areas of concern, and differentiate the plans from the previously rejected and deeply unpopular planning application. This initial round of engagement was well received by stakeholders and laid the foundation for future development of the scheme.
Local residents were invited to have their say on the plans via a combination of digital and traditional engagement methods. Our website provided a central ‘hub’ for the consultation, where members of the public could view the plans and provide feedback via the online survey.
To maximise awareness of the consultation, information leaflets were distributed to neighbours of the site, whilst a press release was widely published in local and regional media.
In the absence of a public exhibition, due to Covid-19 restrictions, an online webinar was organised and widely publicised as part of the consultation’s promotional materials. The webinar provided a forum for local residents to meet with members of the project team and ask questions about the scheme, as would normally take place in a public exhibition.
Following the submission of a planning application, we continued our programme of engagement, securing vital support from influential political and business stakeholders who publicly backed the scheme. We also continued to work with members of the community to resolve any concerns and objections.
At the conclusion of the public consultation, around 70% of respondents had supported the scheme, in stark contrast to the previous planning application which had been deeply unpopular with the local community.
Other outputs included:
- A5 leaflet sent to over 830 households in the vicinity of the proposed site –Reaching digitally excluded groups and inviting written feedback.
- Consultation website – including details about the scheme and an online survey.
- Local engagement – Facilitated dozens of meetings with local business, civic, and political stakeholders, as well as members of the local community.
- Community Webinar – members of the public could hear from the project team and ask questions about the scheme.
Media relations – Three press releases were published throughout the project, gaining prominent coverage in local and regional media.
What was achieved
The consultation concluded that the scheme was supported by around 70% of respondents. A successful programme of pre-app and post-app stakeholder engagement resulted in the scheme being publicly supported by several influential stakeholders, including the local MP.
This engagement and public consultation contributed to growing momentum behind the scheme as we approached determination, and we were delighted when the application was given unanimous approval by members of the Planning Committee.
‘Social have been great to work with. They are pro-active, thoughtful and a key part of our team securing planning consents in a timely manner. They successfully combined online and face-to-face consultation with stakeholders and have a detailed understanding of the region’s political landscape enabling us to talk with the key players quicker.’Tom Wheldon Director & Head of Region H B D