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Commonplace developer series: #1 project planning phase

This is the first instalment of our five-part developer’s best practice guide for Commonplace! Today, we’re starting off with the importance of community engagement in pre-planning and how you can best use online tools to get your developments off to a flying start.

The pre-planning phase of any development is a crucial time to get the public properly informed about your projects. It’s the best time for objections to be aired, issues addressed, and the project outcome clearly explained to avoid as many (potentially expensive) hiccups down the line as possible. Typically there will be months of behind-the-scenes planning activity and it’s during this time that continuous engagement is vital. A one-off news bulletin will simply not do!

Many developers have experienced local people only raising issues that concern them months and even years after an initial consultation, leading to anger and mistrust. Continuous and effective engagement helps to prevent this disconnect, meaning projects can be completed much more smoothly.

We’ve pulled together two examples to show how this can be done and the terrific work achieved with a more engaged public.


Book a free demo now to see how we can help your next project get off the ground and get the community involved!

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Engagement in pre-planning and planning phase: an overview

Transparent and continuous communication is essential for all developments these days, especially in the pre-planning phase.  Not only does it strengthen the relationship between developers and the local community but it can save both time and money by making it more likely that the plan will be put through on the first try, or require fewer amendments. Taking the time to make sure as much of the community is as informed as possible will lead to more people backing the project in the long run as their concerns will have already been addressed and mitigations put in place. Plus, with clear evidence that they are being kept in the loop even when it’s not a legal requirement, you’re helping to build one of the most important parts of any new project - trust.

Let’s see how it can be achieved


Catford Island: developing design proposals

Catford island pre planning phase engagement website

Barratt London, in partnership with the Church Commissioners, has used Commonplace to present detailed proposals for the development of several areas in Catford Island in the London Borough of Lewisham. The engagement ran from the pre-consultation in 2021, all the way through two consultation phases and ended in March 2022. This gave the team plenty of time to introduce the team and the proposed ideas before giving the public a chance to share their views.

On top of a number of in-person pop-up events and two online webinars, the project team utilised a number of short surveys to get public opinion on different aspects of their proposal. These ideas included improvements to cycle hubs and car parking, the proposed building heights as well as the opportunity for new green space. Each topic had a separate survey page on the Commonplace website, making it quick and easy for the members of the local community to leave their thoughts on the particular topic or topics that concern them.  

Survey for pre planning phase in development

Since its launch, the Catford Island Commonplace has had almost 10,000 site visits resulting in over 1,100 respondents leaving their contributions and upticks on the proposal. The majority were the existing residents of the area and, along with those who work and visit locally. Having now gathered all of the responses, the community's input has been turned into valuable data to shape the upcoming developments. To keep all information transparent, every update and even a few thank you’s have been posted to the project’s news page as well as sent out to their subscribed mail list- a great way of keeping people in-the-know, averting as many surprises as possible down the line.

Check out the pre-planning engagement website.


Aylesbury Estate regeneration consultation hub

Aylesbury Estate regeneration consultation hub

Notting Hill Genesis is carrying out consultation for the next phase of the wider regeneration of the Aylesbury Estate. 

Following a solid decade of local engagement, an outline planning application for the Aylesbury Estate regeneration was approved by Southwark Council in 2015. This Masterplan provides a blueprint to redevelop the estate over a period of around 30 years with different parts of the area being designed, demolished and rebuilt in phases. 


Notting Hill Genesis used Commonplace to develop early ideas for Phase 2B. This is the second time they’ve done so since 2016 because of significant policy and social changes including lessons from the Covid pandemic and a new Southwark Local Plan. Engaging with local residents and businesses, Notting Hill Genesis used a number of surveys to gather fresh insights and opinions on the evolving new proposals. With a project that will take so long to fully complete, a strong foundation of community support and understanding is key. While the latest consultation phase is now over, there will be multiple updated designs to share on the Commonplace website in the coming months. All information, news and the latest masterplan proposals will remain available to view on the website to keep the consultation as open and transparent as possible. 

Check out the Phase 2B engagement website.

Make sure to come back next week for #2 in our developer series: Construction. And if you can’t wait that long, our dedicated team is here to show you right now! Just click below and book in your free demo now…

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Charlotte Cooper

Charlotte Cooper

Content Writer at Commonplace