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‘Record response’ to Local Development Plan consultation

Bridgend County Borough Council has thanked residents for participating in a public consultation on a masterplan which, once confirmed, will determine what kinds of development will be able take place in Bridgend County Borough between now and 2033.

Council officers are currently analysing more than 1,500 responses and estimate that once the feedback report is assembled, it will be more than 800 pages long.

The eight-week consultation on the draft replacement Local Development Plan (LDP) was held between June and August after being approved by a meeting of full Council.

Despite the complexities of the coronavirus pandemic, it drew a record response when compared to previous LDP consultations.

Featuring all of the policies that the authority will use when determining future planning applications, the LDP sets out how land can be used in Bridgend County Borough, and which parts of the county borough will be maintained as open space or designated for residential, employment, retail, waste, mineral development, community and tourism purposes

While previous LDP consultation periods could rely on ‘drop-in sessions’ at libraries, leisure centres and other public buildings, the pandemic meant that such options could not be relied upon in case restrictions had to be reimposed in the event of any significant rise in infection rates. As a result, new ways of conducting the consultation had to be developed.

This new approach was approved at full Council and agreed with Welsh Government, who recognised the need to make greater use of virtual meetings, social media, digital communication, web-based consultation tools, one-to-one telephone appointments, the dissemination of hard copies, extensive advertising and promotion, and more.

Welsh Government also agreed that the council could implement an extended period of consultation of eight weeks instead of the usual statutory six-week period.

Beginning with a formal legal notice published in the Glamorgan Gazette on 3 June 2021, a package of consultation documents was made available at the council website along with an electronic online survey. 

Printed copies of both the consultation and the survey were provided at public-facing buildings such as local libraries, and were available to view by appointment at the Civic Offices. Members of the public were able to receive hard copies of the consultation at home, and every individual and organisation listed on the council’s consultation database was notified and invited to take part.

Planning Aid Wales were commissioned to run remote engagement events for town and community councils across the county borough, and elected members were encouraged to promote participation within their local wards.

Planning officers made themselves available for one-to-one telephone appointments so that any queries or concerns could be answered and clarified, while officers also used remote technology to present the consultation to established working groups such as the Bridgend Community Cohesion and Equalities Forum and the Youth Forum.

The consultation was heavily publicised and promoted through a series of 20 media releases issued at strategic points throughout the eight weeks to print, broadcast and digital media. Other publicity included various newspaper and magazine columns, announcements and a comprehensive schedule of social media posts and paid-for advertising across platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

In addition, posters were distributed among all town and community councils to display on community notice boards as a means of supplementing the planned engagement activities, while planning officers also received hundreds of additional phone calls, letters and emails.

This has been a particularly successful consultation, and I would like to thank residents for taking part and helping the LDP to take shape. I think it is significant to note that the response rate has been far higher than the previous stage of the LDP, which took place long before the pandemic restrictions were in place, so I would also like to congratulate the council’s planning officers for making this one of the most successful planning consultations that we have staged to date.

I’m pleased that the extended consultation period agreed at full Council and approved by Welsh Government has supported this success, especially as the record response rate clearly indicates that any further extension is now unnecessary. While this feedback is being analysed and gathered into a consultation report, it is important to note that this is not the end of the LDP process, and that a great deal of further work is required before it can be finalised.

The next stages will see officers continuing to review evidence and undertake additional technical work. Once we are satisfied that we have a development masterplan which meets all of the county borough’s needs, it will go before full Council for agreement, then on to the planning inspectorate of Welsh Government for independent scrutiny. A planning inquiry will need to be held to consider the plan and any objections that may be made against it, and then it will need to go back to Council for final approval. However, there is a long process to undertake before we can reach that point. In the event that substantive changes and further periods of consultation are required, I hope that people will continue to have their say, and to help shape the final plan that is ultimately agreed.

Councillor Stuart Baldwin, Cabinet Member for Communities

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