These five local authorities came together to create a plan for the future development of the area – new homes, infrastructure and environmental protection.
They wanted to understand what local people’s attitudes were to these issues, with the results forming part of the official evidence base for the plan.
The challenge was to identify how the community prioritised competing objectives and what compromises were deemed acceptable around the inevitable trade-offs. For example; the need for more homes versus the desire to protect green space. What would people prioritise when really pressed?
Telephone survey covering all five local authority areas, with a sample size of 1,157 adults.
Statistical analysis (regression) on the results, exploring which factors matter most and how they influence each other.
We asked questions that sought to go beyond merely confirming the obvious issues around development.
For example, we didn’t just ask whether people supported housing development (they were broadly divided on this). We asked about broader perception, such as whether they felt they would own a home within the next five years (most didn’t), whether they felt more housing development was inevitable and how they felt about that.
The broad consensus was that although people were divided on whether to support more housing development, a large majority felt that it was going to happen anyway, and they were uncertain about how that made them feel. Crucially, a plurality was open to persuasion.
This was corroborated when we tested issue priorities, with housing need outweighing everything else, including local environmental issues.
Officers were better able understand what was driving perception, and how their proposals were likely to be received.
This directly influenced the policy process. It also gave them a clear steer on how to communicate their proposals in a contentious environment.