Local websites can do a great job of alerting people to local planning applications. All too often people only find out what’s happening when things are to late to inlufence the decision. You can follow a couple of simple steps on your local website to help spread the word and help your local community organise themselves.
Alert people to an application: in this post over in London’s Kings Cross I alert people to a local planning application. I turn the complicated council consultation documents into plain English – it’s about trees or houses on this site. I provide a simple link direct to the council’s online comment function to help people avoid writing letters. They can go and comment there and then without any effort. I also put a picture of the site in so people know what it looks like. I was tipped off by a local resident who had had the papers shoved through her door and was able to reach hundreds more people through the site. Many councils will offer a subscription to their planning list.
Provide a space to help local people organise: also in Kings Cross we had a controversial planning application from Network Rail. There was a lot of local anger about it and we used the website to drive people to comment on the application. This led to loads of comments and post on the website. I created a category that pulled all the posts together in one place. This allowed people new to the campaign to catch up with the story so far. We promoted local meetings on the website with some success. And reported on otherwise closed meetings with the applicants.
We even used local history and old maps to help fight Network Rail. There was so much stuff that we created a spin off site run by Sophie. We ended up winning £1 million from Network Rail in compensation. The category on the website now serves as an archive of the campaign and helps us hold Network Rail and the council to their promises. The campaign, which was largely organised through the website substantially increased the long term audience for the site.
Keep tabs on the building: If you have kept track of the planning application process you can keep tabs on the building too and make sure that the developer is doing what he promised. Simple photos can make a big difference. Even if you can’t spot that there is a problem, one of your readers might.