The team at PLACEengage won the Excellence in Public Sector Services Support Award for 2021 for public consultation and stakeholder engagement in urban planning at the recent Excellence in Business Awards. This award is all the more appreciated given the challenges of engaging with the community on issues of planning over the past year. The virtual town hall really came into its own over the period of Covid-19 restrictions and we are mapping best practice public consultation and stakeholder engagement as a result of that experience, with the help of both public and private sector clients, and of course the insights made available through Proptech Ireland (data and immersive technologies).
Huge thanks to all the team, our clients and members of the community who made such an effort to positively engage during genuinely difficult circumstances. If your development project needs strategic advice on stakeholder engagement and communications, including messaging, traditional and social media, reach out to the award-winning team at https://placeengage.com!
PLACEengage is an application for users to visualise planning applications in real time. It can also be used to host a virtual town hall designed to inform the community about proposed new property developments and to facilitate quick and easy feedback.The PLACEengage platform is designed to capture community opinions and insights under set criteria. By channelling opinions through the platform rather than through social media, we can apply artificial intelligence to report on the real concerns of the community, rather than relying on anecdotal or subjective commentary. This allows people to become active voices in creating their own sustainable neighbourhoods. Critically, it allows the community to stay up to date with the latest developments in real-time and contribute views from your smartphone 24/7.
In short, PLACEengage provides a solution to the problems surrounding the traditional planning procedures and public consultation process. The Platform has 3 core benefits:
- Firstly, we bring all of the relevant information to do with a particular construction project/development into the public domain and in a centralised place where it’s easy for all project stakeholders to access. Traditionally there has been loads of information locked away in filing cabinets in county council offices or pdf documents buried on disjointed public websites. PLACEengage brings all of the information pertaining to a planning proposal to the public. This includes all of the digital assets of the property developer, that might be BIM (building information model) files, it might be virtual reality walkthroughs, CGI images. All of the information goes to one place so people can access it there.
- The second core benefit is that people are invited to comment under set criteria. Up until now, people have had no place to comment, so their only option was to object. Now all the stakeholders and local residents can have their say on issues such as planning, traffic, a need for green spaces or how the change in demographics might affect them. We’re giving local people a voice. Two-way communication is designed through the use of a platform rather than a traditional website, also, by channeling all comments through one platform rather than across social media, we can capture the voices of the community and turn that data into actionable insights for the local authority.
- The third benefit, our USP, is allowing communities to experience proposed property developments through immersive technologies. Our proprietary Augmented Reality hub app (not fully built out yet) will help people to visualise plans. Whether you are trained in it or not, many people find it difficult to visualise what a building will look like from looking at plans.
The Augmented Reality hub app will allow them to experience the whole development before it is ever built. Augmented reality for property allows people to view the structure from their home. Or they can stand at the site of proposed development and in full 360 degrees can experience the whole development, and see what it looks like in the context of its surroundings. We see Augmented Reality as being key for this much moreso than Virtual Reality. Augmented reality is just more accessible as everyone can access it on their smart device.
With a more empirical approach to planning being the desired outcome, reporting is the most important element as this is what will change planning processes and influence outcomes based on data.
The public sector is an interesting challenge for placemakers and for the PLACEengage team. Right now, state agencies and local authorities are tackling some of the most ambitious and potentially transformative urban revitalisation projects ever seen in Ireland. A more digital approach to stakeholder engagement and public consultation (both statutory and non-statutory) at this time will help establish best practice in citizen engagement for the built environment. The same technology will enable better citizen engagement on a range of other issues, not just urban planning, which is vital if we want to encourage more engaged citizens.
While the long term ambition is the delivery of excellent placemaking through technology, there are policy changes that need to happen first so establishing best practice and working positively with policymakers will be critical.
The team at PLACEengage are currently working with public and private project owners on statutory and nonstatutory campaigns for public consultation, community awareness and community engagement in cities around Ireland. The nonstatutory campaigns involve working with property developers to articulate social value and a more holistic approach to community outreach (including webinars etc).
Citizen engagement is the next natural use of the technology, but not just because of the technology, it will allow for a whole life-cycle approach to communications for cities and local governments. With the rise of technology, project owners are more accountable to the community, which is a good thing. Covid-19 has accelerated this.
There has been a real culture-shift, people don’t just want to know WHAT is being built, but WHO is actually building it? What is the reputation of the developer or track record of the local authority or approved housing body, what materials are being used, what past developments have they delivered? Augmented reality for urban planning and development will help the public find answers to these questions quickly and easily.
www.PLACEengage.com is a dynamic public consultation tool for fully-immersive,
digital placemaking and meaningful stakeholder engagement. The PLACEengage.com
team are founding members of the Public Consultation Institute of Ireland and are
currently contributing to an international, multidisciplinary body of work aimed at
establishing best practice in integrated on and offline public consultation for both the
private and public sectors in Europe.