Hashtags and ‘likes’ on Facebook and Twitter could become useful tools for Rushmoor Borough Council to listen to the thoughts of the public on how development is handled in the borough next year.
Social media is likely to be used to allow people, particularly hard-to-reach groups, to offer suggestions to the council as it puts together its Delivering Development document, which will help shape the planning process in the future.
Hard-to-reach groups include young people between the ages of 16 and 25, older people, ethnic minorities and those with disabilities.
The document will include details on issues such as Aldershot and Farnborough town centres, housing delivery, and policies relating to Farnborough airport and surrounding employment sites that were previously being discussed as part of the Farnborough Airport Area Action Plan.
The first round of public consultation on Delivering Development will take next spring, and it is possible that social media could form a key part of this for the first time.
Katie Bailey, planning policy and conservation manager at the council, said: “We have not discussed it specifically, and we have not used it yet as we have not had a major consultation on planning policy in a couple of years. But social media could be used in the consultation next year, as it is potentially a good tool for us to engage with the public.
“We have to have regard to the comments that are made, and they are taken into account by planning officers.”
The council’s cabinet members this month approved a Statement of Community Involvement (SCI), outlining how members of the public are engaged and consulted, as is legally required. Feedback collected goes towards the development of the Rushmoor Plan, which includes a core strategy of policies and the emerging Delivering Development document.
The SCI document, which will be adopted by the council from October 3, states that the aim is to put the public in a “clear position as to how they can expect to be involved in helping to shape the growth, expansion and improvement of the borough”.
Changes such as the introduction of social media were taken into account to create the up-to-date document.
As well as utilising social media, the council intends to involve the Rushmoor Youth Forum and work closely with other organisations that deal with young people, those with disabilities and minority groups. The most recent census data will also be used to decide how the needs of the community can best be served.
Consultation ahead of the publishing of the SCI was carried out between May and June and received eight responses from authorities in the area. Rob Cummins, senior project manager at housing support service Radian Group, commented that youth engagement was a good idea, but questioned how the success of this would be measured.
As part of the process of developing the Rushmoor Plan, the council said it would monitor how effective social media was as a tool in order to consider how this could be improved or whether other methods would be more successful.