£100k digital engagement fund ensures all voices are heard in Local Plan consultation process

Funding will help to reach children, young people and BME groups in the city

Southampton City Vision - Your City, Your Say

Children, young people and black and minority ethnic groups in Southampton will now get another opportunity to share their views and opinions on the council’s Local Plan proposals via a new digital engagement process.

£100k of funding has been secured from central government following a successful bid by the council’s Strategic Planning Team, who will be one of 13 Local Planning Authorities (LPA) to receive money from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) PropTech Engagement Fund.

The £1m fund is being made available to the 13 LPAs to test new digital initiatives to make the planning process more open and accessible and boost public engagement.

In Southampton it will be used to support engagement on Southampton City Vision, our new Local Plan. As well as running a consultation as part of a normal planning process, engagement with target groups will take place through the sourcing and testing of an appropriate existing digital tool. The Strategic Planning Team will work closely with the supplier to create a bespoke, interactive engagement tool to focus on children, young people and BME groups, who were not well represented in the previous consultation.

The first consultation on Southampton City Vision took place in spring 2020, but many events with schools, communities and businesses were cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Whilst overall there was a good response, with over 3000 people giving their views, some communities were not well represented.

The pandemic has accelerated a shift change in the way we engage and consult with communities, with a greater emphasis on digital formats. The government has recognised this growing need and want to support Local Planning Authorities in understanding the tools available and what works well.

Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Growth, Councillor Jeremy Moulton, said: “It is imperative that we make all of our consultations as inclusive as possible in order to fully represent the diverse range of citizens in the city. It is especially important that we engage with children and young people with projects such as the Local Plan, as many of these youngsters will be long term residents of Southampton, so this directly affects their future.

"The funding secured by our Strategic Planning team will help bridge the gap that was left by the onset of COVID-19 forcing our initial consultation to close earlier than we anticipated."

The consultation will take place January-February 2022, and we will be asking for feedback on a range of options for the new Local Plan. If you would like further information on how to get involved, please contact us by email at local.plan@southampton.gov.uk