We were engaged to a community consultation exercise for a large land developer considering partnering with a local government authority. The developer needed clarity about community attitudes to the potential redevelopment of a number of iconic sites in the town centre. The redevelopment proposal was introduced in a contentious environment with strong, vocal opposition and a level of mistrust among all parties. The proponents formed a “community working group” of stakeholders and residents to consider the proposal, an initiative that met with only middling success.
The challenge was to look at the issue from a different perspective and recommend how best to conduct – and be seen to conduct – a robust community consultation exercise that accurately reflected community sentiment. It was critical that all parties have confidence in the findings.
Our approach combined qualitative and quantitative methods. We interviewed each member of the community working group individually to listen to their opinions of the proposal and gather feedback about the planning process. A mixed-mode community survey of more than five hundred local residents followed using a combination of telephone and intercept surveys. The team was able to demonstrate that the sample was representative of the local population by age, gender and residence. The Project Manager personally spoke to community members who asked for details about the research method.
Our client ultimately chose to postpone the proposed redevelopment the town centre. Feedback from the community consultation demonstrated that community attitudes were complex and stakeholders unlikely to reach consensus. The study demonstrated a degree of entrenched opposition to the proposal, particularly among older, longer-term residents. The results also demonstrated that while younger, newer residents were broadly supportive or redevelopment, many residents expressed a preference for any redevelopment to be considered in parallel with the broader goals for the area rather than as a “stand-alone”.
The project also showed strong community opposition to the redevelopment of one particular site in the town centre. On the basis of such strong community sentiment, the site in question no longer being considered for any redevelopment proposal.