Engaging and mobilising communities

New housing developments and walking and cycling projects can be controversial when people don't understand what is intended and what benefits they will gain from them, for example better local services and less traffic on their streets.

Consequently, many schemes that have been subject to a lot of 'up front' design work actually fail at consultation stage, generate conflict and protest, or are heavily compromised in some way. For this reason, even if the 'trial is the consultation', it is important to undertake early, pre-design engagement so that the community is able to identify local issues that matter to them. When stakeholder training is included, the usefulness of their inputs increases as they play a more central, co-design role in network appraisal and planning.


Typical issues and their solutions could include:

  • Issue raised by residents: Too much motor traffic on residential streets because driving apps show all the rat-runs - 

    • Possible solution: consider closing through streets to cars but keeping them open for people walking and cycling, and local bus services.

    • Potential benefits: safer, quieter streets and the opportunity to strengthen neighbourhood communities. More successful local centres emerge with a range of services within walking or cycling distance. More people start walking or cycling instead of driving, thus reducing congestion on main roads.

  • Issue raised by objectors to major housing development that is needed to meet local demand: traffic generation -

    • Possible solutions: change the masterplan to embed stronger urban design principles, including connected but filtered streets, bus services and densities high enough to support a range of services within walking and cycling distance of where people live. Incorporation of city electric car and e-bike clubs to encourage resource sharing. A "merit based" system in which doing the right thing is also designed to be the easiest and most enjoyable.

    • Potential benefits: less car traffic generation affecting nearby residents. Better design and more desirable places to live. Lifetime places where people can live full lives regardless of their current access to cars. Higher yield of social housing due to the higher density. Places which respond appropriately to the climate emergency by embedding other resilient features such as rooftop solar panels, on-site water recycling and biodiverse re-wilded open spaces.


Online tools such as Commonplace have proved their worth when combined with on street events and public engagement workshops organised by specialists and facilitated by built environment professionals. A recent online webinar hosted by Commonplace usefully outlines challenges and solutions.


We can design and facilitate simple small-scale engagement events or sub-contract specialists to provide a range of more sophisticated solutions designed to make the most of local knowledge, including mobilising communities to help design their neighbourhoods.

Engagement helps to:

  • harvest and build local knowledge and understanding of planning and transport systems

  • build participants' understanding of the options available based on successful practice elsewhere

  • establish clear scoping parameters, including limits on what is achievable given existing guidance and legislation.

  • generate workable solutions based on what people tell us about local problems and wishes.

Beyond the service we provide, the professional contributions we draw together include:

  • experienced communications professionals to develop sound communications and media strategies.

  • engagement specialists who design and deliver exciting and immersive stakeholder involvement in planning the future of their areas. This includes robust statistical analysis of results.

  • experienced practitioner-facilitators including strategy / policy specialists (ActivePlanning), highway engineers, landscape architects and urban designers as required.

  • GIS and 3D visualisation specialists to provide mapping and graphic design support.


We provide or commission stakeholder engagement so that time spent on developing projects is time well-spent.













Specialists we've worked with on projects or tenders include:

Bespoke, a sole trader engagement consultant who draws on his experience working for the London Borough of Waltham Forest's mini-Holland.

BrightKidz, a schools behaviour change specialist in behaviour change communications for children, based in Kettering.

Nicole Crockett, a sole trader specialising in community engagement (no website).

Mobility Lab, a tech-based transport engagement specialist, based in Milton Keynes.

MP Smarter Travel, a consultancy with a long history of finding out why people travel the way they do and what tips the balance towards different travel behaviour.

Open Accessame, a sole trader consultancy specialising in engaging Disabled people in public space design and accessibility assessment (no website).

Placechangers, an engagement platform that enables communities to input ideas to planning and property development projects.

NewPractice, a branding, PR and communications specialist consultancy that provides public engagement and involvement services, based in Glasgow and London.