Responding to consultations
General points about responding
Your planning authority will probably undertake a number of public consultation exercises. Some will be at the formal stages of local plan making and because these are legal stages, please make sure you respond within the official deadlines.
Responding means you will be on the consultation list & be sent further notifications. Your early involvement will give a higher profile to your organisation and objectives.
Stage 1. At the “Public consultation on Issues” stage, the local planning authority is exploring the issues which need to be addressed through the planning system and how the issues might be resolved. If you have more information or evidence send it in. If there is an issue which you do not think is covered this is your chance to get it raised. It gets increasingly more difficult once the local plan takes shape.
Stage 2. At the presubmission stage the local plan document has substantially been completed. You will be able to see the proposed policies and the supporting explanatory text. If you are unhappy you need to make a fully justified case for the policies you had expected to see.
Stage 3. At the examination stage, the local plan is substantially complete. If you feel your case for community food growing policies has not been taken on board you will need to make a case that the local plan is not “sound”.
All your responses will be on the public files, so don’t say something you wouldn’t want to be read by everyone. If you have evidence which is confidential eg financial information, you could offer to share it if the planning authority requests it.
You may have to make your response online. This has the advantage of being able to see what others are saying and being able to make a supplementary response or do some lobbying.
You may want to use the words “strongly object, object, support or welcome” to clarify your position. The council will divide their analysis into object and support. If you like what you see, don’t sit back because another respondent may object. Always record your support. This helps planning officers and councillors to be aware of the interests of their communities. If they need more information, they will know who to turn to. It also ensures that you will be kept informed of subsequent stages in the local plan’s preparation when changes may be made which you are not so pleased with.
Welcome any text on food - you may be able to boost this from your local knowledge. Food growing in planning terms has traditionally meant the provision of statutory allotments. As our definition of space for community food growing is wider than this, you may have to make more of a case. (Sustain’s Guide for Planners will be helpful and can be appended to your response).
Remember - Community food growing has multiple benefits to society, so don’t be sidelined!
Generate interest and support
Invite councillors and planning officers to any open days or work days that you are holding so that they can experience your good work. Keep ward councillors informed of community food growing in their ward; invite the mayor to any special occasions; find out if there is a councillor who will champion food/health/open space initiatives.
Compile evidence and share it (see evidence).