Key findings: research on public attitudes to infrastructure planning
- 13% of the public believe that consultation on infrastructure projects has any impact on projects or people personally
- 25% of people don’t know if the UK is good at delivering infrastructure projects
- More than 20% of people would never get involved in the planning process even if it would have a direct impact on them or increase their quality of life
- But there is support for change – 35% of people believe that consultation should reach a wider audience or be sped up significantly
Only 13% of the public believe that consultation on infrastructure projects has any impact on projects or people personally, while a quarter of people just don’t know if the UK is good at delivering infrastructure projects – an increase of more than 15% since being asked the same question five years ago.
The results come from latest research into public attitudes to infrastructure planning by Copper Consultancy and as the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ consultation on reforming the infrastructure planning process comes to a close.
More than a fifth of people stated they would never get involved in the planning process even if it would have a direct impact on them or increase their quality of life. Of those who would get involved the majority stated it would only be if a project would have an impact on their property. But there is support for change, with 35% of people indicating that consultation should reach a wider audience or be sped up significantly.
As the government considers changes to the planning system, Copper Consultancy makes five key recommendations for improving public participation:
- Deliver an overarching communications campaign to market infrastructure’s role to the public, building understanding and excitement, rather than relying on individual projects to tell a disjointed story
- Recognise consultation as a valuable part of the planning process that can offer genuine insight from the people who will use the infrastructure or live locally – not a tick box exercise to meet a legal requirement
- Evolve the consultation process to seek feedback little and often, making it an ongoing engagement process not a milestone event
- Focus on the why – recognise the need for different types of information to be available for different audience group. Not everyone will be interested in the technical detail of a project, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t interested at all. Providing different ‘entry points’ to projects, showing why people should care and what’s in it for them will encourage better participation.
- Truly embrace digital where everyone involved in infrastructure planning understands its value – not reverting to traditional consultation mechanisms which require people to come to projects
Andrew Weaver, Director of Infrastructure at Copper Consultancy, said: “There is no joined-up approach to communicating or involving the public in infrastructure planning. Where there is communication or consultation, it is usually in a way where we expect people to come to the process, rather than taking it to people. As a result, the public remain largely uninformed or detached from the process.
“To improve understanding of the value of investment in infrastructure – and the speed and quality of planning applications, the government, arms-length government bodies and other statutory bodies should come together to deliver an engaging, exciting communications campaign that sits above individual projects and raises awareness of the critical role infrastructure plays in all of our daily lives. This will provide stakeholders and communities with a base level of understanding and encourage better two-way dialogue about the detail of individual projects.
“Our sector has a vital role in tackling some of the UK’s biggest challenges, levelling up the country and delivery better results for people across the country. We look forward to seeing the evolution of the planning process to hopefully enable more people to get involved and deliver even better outcomes for communities.”
Copper Consultancy is a specialist infrastructure communications agency founded 25 years ago. The fast-growing company offers services spanning the breadth of the sector, including economic development, infrastructure planning, construction, corporate communications, public affairs and creative services. All the Company’s work remains focused upon supporting organisations and project teams within the infrastructure, development and construction sectors, helping them to achieve their goals and better serve their customers.