Increasing community spirit through Neighbourhood Planning

What does the phrase ‘a strong community spirit’ really mean? Is it something to do with knowing your neighbours? Or is it more about taking pride in your home town? There are many things which make up a community spirit. And when it exists, a positive sense of community spirit is a great asset. It can act as a glue, bringing together a whole community, disregarding the usual things that can cause division, like age and social, economic and political factors.

When Neighbourhood Planning was introduced by the Government, the main benefit of the policy was to enable “communities to play a much stronger role in shaping the areas in which they live and work and in supporting new development proposals”. Strengthening the sense of community spirit wasn’t formally acknowledged as a benefit, but there’s no doubt that it is one!

Here at Keystone, we are great advocates of the power of a Neighbourhood Plan. We’re proud to be working with our local councils, enabling them to create their own Neighbourhood Plans, which can make such a positive impact on their (and our!) local communities.

Last year we worked with St Neots Town Council to encourage locals to get behind the St Neots Neighbourhood Plan and vote for it in the referendum. We have recently completed a project with Huntingdon Town Council as part of the development of their Neighbourhood Plan. This campaign focused on getting out into the local community and encouraging them to share their thoughts on what Huntingdon’s Neighbourhood Plan should include. We developed a marketing strategy, at the heart of which was a series of community events where locals could talk to the council, and share their thoughts about what should be safeguarded, improved, protected and maintained in Huntingdon’s Plan. A set of supporting marketing materials were created for the events, to help communicate the key campaign messages. We also engaged with local press and key stakeholders, asking them to share the details of the campaign in order to make sure that we reached the whole community.

So did our campaign help to increase the sense of community within Huntingdon?
We’d like to think so – and anecdotal feedback from the residents that attended the events certainly suggests so! But for Huntingdon Town Council, the project isn’t quite finished yet. Once written and approved by an external examiner, the Plan will be put to public referendum, where over 50% of the town’s residents have to vote ‘Yes’. But of course, running such a public and successful campaign at this stage will make the referendum stage that little bit easier. It’s much easier to ask someone to vote for something, when you’ve involved them from the start. And there’s another thing that makes up community spirit – feeling that you’ve been given the opportunity to have your say on the things that matter to you.

Igniting audiences and engaging communities is a huge passion of ours. If you’re thinking about how you could strengthen stakeholder relationships with a clear strategies – let’s talk!