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A Local Plan with resident support – it can be done
12 August 2019
As a London borough Sutton wanted to do its bit to address the housing crisis. However, as a leafy suburban borough more akin to Surrey than Southwark, and with historically very low housing targets, this was not something we would be able to do without the support of our residents.
So we set out an ambitious consultation plan to reach beyond the usual suspects.
The Issues and Options consultation document was a weighty volume, but well designed, setting out with infograms the problems we faced and the options to solve them. We then sent a postcard to every household in the borough alerting them to the consultation and engagement events.
We trailed the consultation with some informal, member-led presentations, followed by a number of formal consultation events, and arranged tailored presentations at our six area committees. This was supported by a big drive from our Comms Team raising awareness and encouraging participation. The Strategic Planning Team were fantastic, putting themselves at the front line engaging face to face with residents.
As a result we received over 4,000 responses.
Residents’ concerns were about retaining the green, suburban character of the borough. They recognized the need to provide more housing, but wanted to ensure that growth was adequately supported with the necessary infrastructure like schools and parking. Most of all they did not want to see their borough concreted over and stuffed with tower blocks.
We therefore drafted our Local Plan with a medium housing growth target – still double our previous targets, and designated our town and district centres as the focus for both business and housing growth, protecting our suburban heartlands and green spaces. We were clear where the compromises would need to be – using some green space to deliver two new schools, and expanding the existing Travellers site into green belt, but also expanding our protected green space and demanding high quality development. We then went out to consultation again.
The result was general support for the plan. Residents saw we had responded to their feedback and agreed we had struck the right balance. A measure of our success was seeing resident interest groups participating at the Examination in Public, making their case for some compromises, but including one RA rep specifically attending in support of our plan.
With the Plan successfully approved, our job now is delivering it!
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