Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park needed a new approach for their latest development plan. We helped the Park to increase interest and engagement in the planning process, reduce costs, improve results, and demonstrate best practice for years to come.
Anna Maclean, Head of Communications at the Park, wanted to increase public engagement in a core part of the planning process. The Local Development Plan would govern all planning decisions for 20 years – so it was important that as many people as possible were involved.
But here’s the problem: public consultations are typically dry things. Anna challenged us to come up with a way to spark people’s interest, get people involved, and make sure the planning process was as open and satisfying as it could be.
Our answer? Make everything people-centred. From marketing campaigns to workshops, the website to the plan itself, everything should be looked at from the people’s point of view, not the organisation’s. This took a bit of work, a lot of strategy, and some Lego to get as many audiences involved as possible.
Here’s what we did
Process and context. That’s what we needed to establish with the Park Authority, to see which parts of the planning process we could change, and which parts were statutory requirements. There were certain things we had to include in the Main Issue Report process, but lots of it we could take apart and rebuild.
Who’s interested in what? To answer that question, we held a workshop with the Park — attended by every level, from the Chief Executive to rangers. We also involved residents, investors and other stakeholders, looking for ways to increase interest from the Park’s audiences.
We developed a suite of ideas based on the interest levels of residents and others in the process. Then we created an information hierarchy of the Main Issue Report, to decide how to deliver the best content to each audience. We outlined all of this in an initial strategy – and it formed the basis of Our Live Park.
We developed a brand based on the strategy – one that would sit well with the Park’s existing brand suite. We also produced branded assets for Our Live Park, as well as designs and information architecture for ourlivepark.com.
We made sure the website was search-friendly, presenting the core information up front. This meant splitting plans into local areas and bringing the major changes up to the top of the page, to make it easy for readers to see what was new. We also included a series of icons and designs to show more information visually, and make it easier for residents to understand the proposals.
And, because the Park would be managing this website, we created a series of brand guidelines for all the new assets.
The team at the Park also brought our strategy to life. They used a powerful mix of community engagement meetings, service design and integrated marketing to engage a broader audience. Making full use of social media to spread the word, the team also ran Lego workshops to engage younger audiences in schools. The effect of all this? A big spike in engagement.
Here’s the impact
The project increased awareness and appreciation of planning staff within the Park’s communities. And because there was a much greater level of involvement at each stage of the process, people complained about it a lot less. In fact, Live Park lead to a 50% reduction in formal responses to The Main Issues Report, which marks a big reduction in the costs of the whole process.
The project set a new benchmark approach for the Park’s engagement with the public and its partners. The strategy we helped develop is now the standard process of engaging the public in the decision-making process. And the project also brought together key partners from across Scotland to promote ownership of the ideas in the report. Among them were Historic Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Transport Scotland and Community Councils.
It won an award too. Live Park was the overall winner of the Scottish Government’s Awards for Quality in Planning. The award is for best practice and innovation in planning approaches – demonstrating the kind of transformation that taking a people-centred approach can have. The project was also shortlisted for an RTPI national award for excellence in planning.
“Through LIVE Park we sought to break down the barriers to getting involved in planning. The team used language and a visual approach that spoke more clearly to the interests of traditionally harder-to-reach audiences including young people and working age families."– Gordon Watson MRTPI, Chief Executive Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
"It’s fair to say that working on LIVE Park has revolutionised the way our own planning team think about communication and it’s been great to see their confidence grow in using these fresh approaches.”– Gordon Watson MRTPI, Chief Executive Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park