Sensat News

5 ways a visualisation software can support public consultation in garden community planning

May 3, 2023

The appeal of garden communities has only increased following the pandemic where more people are embracing remote or flexible working lifestyles and heading for greener spaces. However, building garden communities comes with its own unique set of challenges, especially when it comes to public consultation.

Public consultation is a critical part of the process, and it is necessary to ensure that the community's views and ideas are taken into consideration. In this blog, we discuss the challenges faced by the sector and how teams are overcoming them using visualisation software.

Paul Meadows, Head of Real Estate at Sensat, explores how a visualisation platform can help teams to streamline the public consultation process.

Challenges faced in the public consultation process

The process of developing a garden community involves a series of active engagements, discussions, and meetings with diverse stakeholders. These stakeholders include the general public, local authorities, planning departments, environmental organisations, and committees. The primary challenge lies in ensuring that every party actively participates in the decision-making process and that their perspectives hold significance. However, achieving complete transparency in this approach is not a straightforward task. The intricacy of plans and information often poses difficulties in conveying them in a comprehensible manner while also minimising the risk of misinterpretation. Such misunderstandings can significantly hamper the approval process.

Frequently, local communities are not sufficiently involved in the development process. This lack of engagement results in opposition, mistrust, and, ultimately, delays in project advancement and planning approvals. These delays, in turn, result in substantial financial costs. One of the most formidable obstacles faced during public consultations is the challenge of envisioning the final outcome of the project. Visualising the potential impact of the proposed development on the surrounding environment, infrastructure, and social aspects is pivotal for understanding.

Simplistically, people often focus on the central proposal that "ten thousand homes will be constructed in an area currently occupied by nature and fields." Nonetheless, presenting the comprehensive vision, along with contextual visualisations of the green spaces outlined in the plans, the scenic habitats, and the environmental considerations, plays a crucial role in assuaging concerns and thereby reducing objections.

Moreover, the consultation process itself can be both time-consuming and expensive. Engaging with all stakeholders typically spans months, if not years, and this protracted timeline can lead to inevitable delays and escalating expenses. Contemporary teams are leveraging novel tools to effectively involve a broad spectrum of stakeholders in the process.

Digital twin of garden community

Leveraging the power of visualisation

Visualisation has always been an important part of the public consultation process. Complex plans, held in specialist software need to be translated into a format that is accessible and understandable to the public.

Traditionally this has relied on plans being drawn up as viewpoints, modelled as scaled physical sites, poster board mock-ups on easels or futuristic CGI-rendered videos to be created. These are all extremely time-consuming methods of visualising plans, and if plans change, models need to be rebuilt and plans re-drawn.

5 ways visualisation software can support public consultation

Visualisation software has emerged as a powerful tool for building garden communities. It enables teams to create 3D models of the proposed development and provide a more tangible, contextual representation of the final outcome. Visualisation software can help stakeholders to;

  1. Understand the impact of the proposed development on the surrounding area, including the environment, infrastructure, and social aspects. Viewing the site from their own perspective can help to dispel any misconceptions about the project.
  2. Can create virtual tours of the proposed development, allowing stakeholders to experience the proposed development as if it already exists. These can be interactive so that teams can navigate the future sites on their own accord, helping to engage stakeholders.
  3. By creating a visual representation of the proposed development, all stakeholders can provide feedback based on the same information. This makes it easier to identify areas of agreement and disagreement
  4. When there might be multiple options being considered, software can provide multiple options that stakeholders can explore to ensure a wider range of ideas and opinions (which option is the most environmental, the most cost-effective, and the most supported by local communities).
  5. The use of visualisation software can also reduce the time and cost of the consultation process. Teams can create virtual models quickly, and stakeholders can provide feedback remotely. It is no longer necessary to hold multiple physical meetings to gather feedback, which can save time and resources.

The future of public consultation

Building garden communities can be a challenge, especially when it comes to public consultation. The use of visualisation software has emerged as a powerful tool for overcoming these challenges. It can help stakeholders to understand the impact of a proposed development on the surrounding area, overcome the challenge of vocal minorities, and reduce the time and cost of the consultation process. Visualisation software can help to create a more transparent, collaborative, and inclusive development process that takes into account the views of all stakeholders.

Learn how Sensat’s Common Visualisation Software is being used on the Otterpool Park Garden Community project in the latest press release.