The Council are conducting a "Neighbourhood Consultation" about the Brentwood Local Plan. I knew about this because there was a leaflet that came through the door, probably as a local paper insert.
The leaflet didn't look like something from the council, in fact it looked more like it was promoting a party supply shop.
The "party supply shop" leaflet advised that the Council would be holding public consultations in a variety of places, one of which would be Brentwood High Street, on May 7th.
I turned up today expecting to find enthusiastic Council employees eager to solicit the public's views on Planning policy and potential future development. What I found was somewhat different.
A gazebo over a table was surrounded by "nice young people" who were both nice and young but not directly employed by the Council. The Consultation appears to have been outsourced to a group who have run consultations elsewhere and so are very versed in planning policy and how to gather opinion. What they don't know is Brentwood or anything about the particular planning concerns that are relevant to this area.
The method for obtaining opinion varied depending upon the member of the public with whom they were dealing. People who knew about the process and the current planning policy were invited to write their thoughts on small post-it notes and this was the category into which I seemed to fall. Other people who just happened to be passing were encouraged to talk with their views being captured by the nice young folk who were writing on small post-it notes. None of the ideas on the post-it notes were being attributed to any particular individual. There was no data capture for future follow up.
I decided this was rather inefficient and asked for an e-mail address so I could send in my extensive thoughts on the matter. The woman I was talking to looked startled by my request and told me she thought she'd seen one somewhere. There were some leaflets on display and I suggested that an e-mail address might be there and she "didn't think so." I looked and there was an e-mail address for further information but it was firstname.lastname@example.org which is an e-mail address for all manner of general enquiries and perhaps not the best for a targeted consultation. She then mentioned that there were some questionnaires "somewhere" and, sure enough, after a rummage around under the table she found a questionnaire with all of the information I needed.
If you do want to participate in this consultation, and you do want to have your details attributed to your input, then visit www.brentwood.gov.uk/your neighbourhood. For some strange reason this link is configured such that it won't work without the www. And you can also e-mail email@example.com for more copies of questionnaires or to find out more about the consultation. There's also a telephone number 01277 312610.
You have until July 1st and by completing a questionnaire you could win £50 of shopping vouchers (there are no terms and conditions that explain which shops so it could be for multiple copies of the Mayor's 2011 calendar, who knows.) There is also no privacy statement on the form despite the collection of personal data, but perhaps I'm expecting too much of our highly paid Council employees and their even more highly paid consultants. So you need to be prepared for your details to be sold to the highest bidder....probably double glazing and kitchen salespeople.
I encourage you to get involved and not just via the yellow sticky note process because it's your town and you deserve a say*.
*obviously only your town if you live in Brentwood.