Harris Lamb Blog – Public Consultation – Lessons Learnt


Simon Hawley

29th September, 2011.

Public Consultation – Lessons Learnt

By Simon Hawley, Associate Director, Planning.




The route provides 27 miles of privately funded and operated highway from Coleshill in North Warwickshire to Cannock in South Staffordshire.  The road carried an average 47,592 vehicles on weekdays in the summer of 2010  and from my experience of the Toll Road, private cars form the vast majority of the traffic.

The M6 Toll Road was identified as an “M6 Relief Road” to alleviate congestion on the M6, which is something many people feel has not been adequately addressed and, with one way car tolls at peak periods of £5, this is something to be debated elsewhere.

From a property perspective the benefits have probably been more tangible than the traffic improvements.  The southern end of the Toll Road and the ‘T1’ junction close to J4 M6 coincided with some of the latter stage build projects at the Hams Hall National Distribution Park, a 430 acre business park which ranks as one of the best such employment parks in the UK.

Junctions T2 and T3 appear to largely function as commuter gateways for those living to the south and east of Sutton Coldfield from where national motorway access has improved considerably and the effect on house prices has been positive in these areas.

The access to Junctions T4 and T5 at Weeford and Lichfield has given a stimulus to residential and commercial property markets alike with possibly the biggest winner being the 300 acre Fradley Park, where some of the largest distribution buildings in the area have been built with more to come.  We are marketing the new Fradley Prologis Scheme with 70 acres and units to 700,000 sq ft available to be built and which will be on site shortly.

T6 Burntwood, a forgotten part of the West Midlands conurbation 10 years ago for business and for new build residential perhaps, has not quite been “transformed” but certainly “considerably improved”.

T7 & T8 and the Cannock access points to the Toll Road provided the catalyst that has helped to promote the former coal mining town into a first rate employment location.  Significant development of a cross section of employment type accommodation from offices to manufacturing and warehouse operations has bought vitality to Cannock which I think is largely due to the Toll Road passing the town’s doorstep.

For those drivers who still regularly sit stationary on the M6 between junction 8 and 10 bemoaning the state of the traffic and whether the Toll Road has done the job it promised, the tangible benefits are probably in property as much as traffic counts.  The commercial new build and viability of new schemes along the entire length of the Toll Road has been transformed since the road was built.

Good quality and meaningful public consultation is a vital role in the planning process.  In addition, with the emergence of the Localism Bill, the role local communities have in shaping development is going to increase.  It is therefore important to help ensure that opportunities to engage with the public on proposals are taken advantage of in a way and at a scale to suit development proposals.

I have been involved in a significant number of different public consultation events during my time at Harris Lamb and in my previous role as a Planning Officer with Redditch Borough Council.  During my time at Redditch, we were in the process of preparing a new Local Plan.  As part of this process members of the public and the development industry were heavily involved in shaping the Plan’s policies.  During the various consultation periods public exhibitions were held, stakeholder groups were formed, and promotional stalls set up in the Town Centre.  In order to advertise these events, articles were placed in local newspapers, information was put on the Council’s website and posters placed around the town to encourage community involvement.  This approach helped ensure a plan was created that reflected the needs of the community and the development industry. 

At Harris Lamb I have been involved in a number of public consultation events.  These have ranged from presentations to drop-in sessions, to steering groups.  We tailor our consultation events to the project, be it a development for close to 1,000 new homes in South Worcestershire or new supermarkets, to smaller schemes such as care home developments.  These consultation events have always been well attended by members of the public.  A number of the consultation events had in excess of 100 people attend any one session with a significant proportion providing comments. 

The most recent public consultation event undertaken by Harris Lamb was in relation to a supermarket proposal in the town of Worksop.  This took the form of a drop-in session where members of the public could view a series of display boards outlining the proposal.  They also had the opportunity to ask questions of the planning application team who attended the event.  Approximately 100 people attended the event, the majority of whom provided positive and constructive comments which have been taken into account in the preparation of the Planning Application. 

Public Consultation can play a very important role in helping to shape planning applications and developments generally.  Engaging with members of the public can inform the design process to help ensure that the needs of the local community are taken into account.  They also provide valuable information, such as local knowledge on the history of sites and issues that matter to the local community.  The role public consultation can play in helping to positively shape developments should not be underestimated.

If you need any advice or assitiance regarding any aspect of commercial planning permission, Simon would be pleased to speak with you. Call him on 0121 4559455 or email simon.hawley@harrislamb.com.         

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