MAJOR PROJECTS DIRECTORATE GUIDANCE ON PUBLIC CONSULTATION This document provides guidance on public consultation. It is not a mandatory part of the ...
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GUIDANCE ON PUBLIC CONSULTATION This document provides guidance on public consultation. It is not a mandatory part of the Highways Agency’s approach to Public Consultation and provides supplementary information to assist Project Managers in issues that may be worth considering for their specific projects. Guidance is provided on: PART 1: AIMS OF PUBLIC CONSULTATION

Aims and framework within which public consultation is undertaken

The Consultation Principles

Public Consultation Strategy (including length of Consultation)


Public Consultation Leaflet and Questionnaire

Public Consultation Exhibition

Public Consultation Publicity


Public Consultation Report

Statement of results of Public Consultation

Handling applications and questions about blight/discretionary purchase on consultation options

Repeating a Public Consultation


PART 1: AIMS OF PUBLIC CONSULTATION Aims and framework within which public consultation is undertaken The aim is to obtain through consultation the benefit of local knowledge, preferences and views of stakeholders, as part of the process involved in developing a project. Initially, consultations and data gathering take place with key stakeholders: “in confidence”, in order to identify and take account of issues which could affect, or be affected by, matters for which they have a statutory responsibility or other legitimate interest. Key stakeholders include government departments, local planning authorities, statutory environmental bodies (often referred to as SEBs), utilities and relevant non-statutory bodies identified through the Consultation and Orders Distribution List. National infrastructure projects, under The Planning Act 2008, require us to consult with local authorities, and a range of consultees prescribed in Schedule 1 of the Infrastructure Planning (Applications: Prescribed Forms and Procedure) Regulations 2009. As it may be the first time that the public will have seen details of the proposals, unless the scheme has come through a multi-modal or similar study in the public domain, it also provides an early indication of whether it is possible to deliver the scheme, based on the likely level of support or opposition. This does not mean simply paying heed to the most vocal groups, or that local interests will prevail over the need for an efficient trunk road network. The aim is achieved by: Making information about the need and impact of the proposals(s) widely available to the local population; Indicating sustainable option(s) for consideration and the likely consequences; Giving the public and stakeholders an opportunity to express their views on the option(s) under consideration and to propose further options.

The framework within which public consultation is undertaken In July 2012, the Cabinet Office updated the guidance on consultation, specifically replacing the previous Government’s Code of Practice on Consultation, which came into effect in November 2008. As part of the Civil Service Reform Plan, they have replaced this code with simpler Consultation Principles. Consultation Principles (pdf, 76kb)


The Consultation Principles, diversity and equality legislation, and court judgments provide the framework within which public consultation is undertaken. In addition, information requested during public consultation and the way in which it is used, must comply with the provisions of the Data Protection Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations.

The Consultation Principles The Civil Service Reform Plan commits the Government to improving policy making and implementation with a greater focus on robust evidence, transparency and engaging with key groups earlier in the process. As a result the Government is improving the way it consults by adopting a more proportionate and targeted approach, so that the type and scale of engagement is proportional to the potential impacts of the proposal. The emphasis is on understanding the effects of a proposal and focusing on real engagement with key groups rather than following a set process. The key Consultation Principles are: • • • •

departments will follow a range of timescales rather than defaulting to a 12-week period, particularly where extensive engagement has occurred before; departments will need to give more thought to how they engage with and consult with those who are affected; consultation should be ‘digital by default’, but other forms should be used where these are needed to reach the groups affected by a policy; and the principles of the Compact between government and the voluntary and community sector will continue to be respected.

Consultation Principles (pdf, 76kb) However, certain requirements may be inappropriate because of the localised nature of the proposed public consultation. Where necessary specific requirements can be waived but a positive decision must be made to depart from any aspect of the Consultation Principles. All departures must be approved by the Agency’s Consultation Co-ordinator. See also ‘Consultation Principles Agency Guidance 2012’ Diversity and equality legislation and consulting with ‘hard to reach’ groups

The Single Equality Act 2010 contains specific duties, which require government departments and agencies to (amongst other things): ensure the public has access to information and the services it provides; monitor the effect of its policies on different groups; and publish the results of its assessments and monitoring.


The Agency has developed The Highways Agency’s Public Sector Equality Objectives 2012 -2016 – Making a Difference in accordance with The Single Equality Act 2010. This document replaces the Race Equality, Disability and Gender Equality Action Plans with actions including identifying good practice for responding to the needs of protected groups within communities that are affected by our work on the strategic road network In order for the Agency to assess and monitor its effectiveness at consultation, scheme teams must establish the public demographic they are to consult with (this information should be available from the relevant local authority) and then gather information, using the consultation questionnaire (information about the wording to be used, is given in the section entitled ‘The questionnaire’ below) about the public demographic that responds. Ethnic communities, disabled people, people with different religious and belief systems and people of different age groups may have different needs. These groups of people are typically classed as ‘hard to reach’ groups. For various reasons, which may be personal, cultural, and so on, they may not be reached by traditional consultation techniques or do not engage in the process of local democracy. The approach to consultation may need to be adapted to meet the specific needs, and engage with, these groups. Court judgments

Public consultation must fulfil the legal test in R (Wainwright) v Richmond upon Thames London Borough Council [2001] that in both statutory and non-statutory consultations by an authority, the following principles apply. Consultation: Must be undertaken when proposals are still at a formative stage (i.e., before the authority has reached a decision on which option to implement) Must give sufficient reasons to permit the consultee to make a meaningful response. Must allow adequate time for consideration and response, and The results of the consultation must be conscientiously taken into account in finalising any proposals. The courts also consider it ‘axiomatic (widely held) that consultation, whether it is a matter of obligation or undertaken voluntarily, requires fairness’ see judgment in R (Medway) Council & others v SofS for Transport, Gatwick Airport [2003]. Fairness must be considered in every aspect of consultation from; the selection of option(s), the methods adopted to engage with the whole community; analysing the consultation results and the selection of the preferred route. Data Protection Act, Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations

Some of the information requested during public consultation may be classed as personal data for the purposes of the Data Protection Act.


The Act controls when personal data may be requested. The main circumstance is when there is a legal duty on the individual or body to provide the information. There is no such duty in relation to public consultation. Therefore under the Act information can only be collected if it is freely given and the person providing it is fully informed of the reason why it is being collected and how it will be handled. Under the Act, the Agency has a duty to: Collect only the minimum personal data needed for the purpose; Inform those being consulted, of the purpose for which the data is being collected and the use it will be put to; and Protect any personal data and use it only for the purpose for which it is obtained. Personal data has been defined by case law as information which, taken together with other information which a public body holds, can be traced back to a specific living individual. An address would count as personal data, but a postcode would normally not, unless other information is provided (for example age or occupation) making it possible to connect it to a specific individual within that postcode. Likewise, it does not apply to information about groups or corporate bodies, unless it can be traced to an individual within that group or body. The data may be shared with our agents in order that they can work on it, but again they can only use it for the purpose it was requested. Personal Data may be published but there is a presumption against it. Any personal data should be excluded from the public consultation report, unless it is crucial to understanding the report. Information on road schemes is normally classed as environmental and covered by the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR), but areas such as the selection of the exhibition venue(s) or advertising medium would not normally be classed in this way. Information provided in confidence is normally exempt from publication under EIR. However, it is necessary to determine this and not simply accept a claim of confidentiality by a consultee. Where information is received in confidence, but we do not consider it to be covered by the confidentiality exemption, the consultee should be informed and given an opportunity to comment. Where the publication of confidential information would expose the Agency to claims of a breach in confidentiality, it must not be included in the report. It is important to determine which Act a request falls within before deciding how to respond to any request for information. Further information on the Data Protection Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations, can be found on the Portal.


The government has produced a FOI disclaimer to be used in all consultation documents as follows: “Information provided in response to this consultation, including personal information, may be subject to publication or disclosure in accordance with the access to information regimes (these are primarily the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004). If you want information that you provide to be treated as confidential, please be aware that, under the FOIA, there is a statutory Code of Practice with which public authorities must comply and which deals, amongst other things, with obligations of confidence. In view of this it would be helpful if you could explain to us why you regard the information you have provided as confidential. If we receive a request for disclosure of the information we will take full account of your explanation, but we cannot give an assurance that confidentiality can be maintained in all circumstances. An automatic confidentiality disclaimer generated by your IT system will not, of itself, be regarded as binding on the Highways Agency. The Agency will process your personal data in accordance with the DPA and in the majority of circumstances this will mean that your personal data will not be disclosed to third parties.”

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Public Consultation Strategy The following information is written to support the consultation strategy product definition.

Timing of public consultation Consultation must be undertaken when proposals are still at a formative stage (i.e. before the Agency has reached a decision on which option to implement). In deciding when to hold a consultation try to avoid holiday periods or religious festivals observed by any local faith groups, or allow extra time so that they have a fair opportunity to take part.

Length of public consultation The Consultation Principles requires that consultation should be proportionate and realistic to allow stakeholders sufficient time to provide a considered response. The amount of time required will depend on the nature and impact of the proposal (for example, the diversity of interested parties or the complexity of the issue, or even external events), and might typically vary between 2 and 12 weeks. In some cases there will be no requirement for consultation at all and that may depend on the issue and whether interested groups have already been engaged in the policy making process. For a new and contentious policy, 12 weeks or more may still be appropriate. The capacity of the groups being consulted to respond should be taken into consideration. The Consultation Principles put the responsibility back on the consulting body to decide the appropriate length and scope of any public consultation. This makes a “one size fits all” approach less appropriate, though where schemes are matched in terms of size and local impacts the same considerations on the appropriate length of consultation may apply. This is particularly likely to impact on managed motorway schemes which are locationally close together, contiguous in some cases. In these circumstances the project teams should work together to prepare a consistent and sensible consultation strategy. Therefore, a decision has to be made about what is appropriate and meaningful engagement for any particular scheme and what period of consultation meets this requirement There will be different levels and purposes to consultation depending on what stage the scheme is at, what engagement has gone before, and what the implications are at that point. Common throughout are the assessment of costs and benefits and associated risks, clear objectives, appraisal, evaluation and feedback. The importance of each will vary by degree depending on what has already been done to reach that point and what the objectives are now. The following issues need to be considered: • •

While consultation may not be a legal requirement, except for National Infrastructure Projects, it may reduce the risk of unforeseen challenge. There is a Government obligation to consult on policy and departures from this are likely to lead to a challenge.


• •

The consultation must be adequate to meet legitimate expectations of stakeholders and give them time to make a considered response. The consultation must be clear in its objectives and purpose and should avoid creating unrealistic expectations. The scheme must be clearly explained to stakeholders and comments requested so that the risks can be identified and mitigated. The purpose and outcomes of the consultation need to be clear and transparent. Where new policies are not being imposed (e.g. Managed Motorway schemes are an established policy) any related Impact Assessment should be confined to detail of the scheme and its local impact. This need not be a special exercise but can be set out as background to the consultation to assist stakeholders in giving feedback. Pre-consultation engagement maybe a consideration in the decision but, given the new Consultation Principles, there still is a need to look at the nature and impact of the scheme and then determine an appropriate consultation length for that scheme, taking into account the extent to which there has already been engagement as a relevant factor.

Every scheme is different and therefore likely to have different answers taking into account the complexities and sensitivities of the scheme. Any previous consultations or engagement will be part of the decision making process but, not the absolute answer as to whether consultation is needed at this stage and how long it should be. It is important that we don’t choose, say, 6 or 8 weeks simply because we are under pressure to do less than 12 weeks and that we don't choose a longer period just to be on the safe side. The decision is one for the SRO alongside the project board on the recommendation of the integrated project team. The SRO will ultimately sign off the public consultation strategy. What is crucial is that the SRO ensures that there is a robust decision made about consultation and engagement such that the Agency can demonstrate appropriate and meaningful engagement with stakeholders and affected parties, and would be able to justify the actions and decisions should there be a challenge.

Selection of sustainable options for public consultation The Technical Appraisal Report (TAR) and Appraisal Summary Tables (ASTs) should be used to identify the sustainable options for public consultation. Whilst there is no limit on the number of options that can be presented to the public for consideration, it is important not to offer too many. More than 4 is likely to prove confusing to the public and could create the impression that those advising the Agency are of little help in finding the best route. Furthermore, there is no point in publishing an option which, although sustainable, is clearly less sustainable when compared (using the criteria in the TAR and ASTs) to one, or more, of the other options. In reducing the options for consultation to the most sustainable, care should be taken to ensure that the options selected offer a clear choice between routes. For instance, if the


TAR identified equally sustainable options to the north and south of a town and in reducing the number for consultation the Agency selected only those to the south, the Agency could be challenged that it had already made up its mind that the scheme would go to the south. In rejecting options prior to public consultation, the Agency must be able to justify, with reference to the TAR and AST criteria, why those options have been rejected. Consulting on too many options could create a risk of blighting property unnecessarily, resulting in unnecessary concern for members of the public living along options, which in reality have little or no chance of being constructed. Please see the section headed ‘Handling applications and questions about blight/discretionary purchase on public consultation options’ below, for further information.

Extent of public consultation (identifying those affected) In identifying the extent of the local community to consult with, consider those: Who are likely to be directly affected by the scheme proposal(s) o

Whose daily/weekly lives will change as a result of the proposal(s)


Who cannot easily take steps to avoid being affected by the proposal(s)


Who will have to change their behaviour as a result of the proposal(s)

Who are indirectly affected by the proposal(s) o

Whose daily/weekly lives will change because others have been directly affected by the proposal(s)


Who will gain or lose because of changes resulting from the proposal(s)

Who are potentially affected by the proposal(s) o

In particular circumstances, who will have a different experience as a result of the proposal(s)


Are there individuals or groups who will have to adjust their behaviour

Whose assistance is needed to reach a decision over a preferred route o

Are there vital individuals or groups in the delivery chain


Who will have the ability to frustrate implementation of the scheme unless cooperating


Who understands the likely impact of the proposal(s) on other stakeholders

Who knows about the subject


o Who has detailed knowledge that those implementing the proposal(s) should also understand o

Are there individuals or groups that will be listened to by others

Who have a potential interest in it o

Are there organisations or individuals who think they have an interest in the proposal(s)


Has anyone been campaigning about the proposal(s)


Is there anyone broadcasting views on the proposal(s)

Hard to reach groups

Care should be taken to identify and consult with any ‘hard to reach’ groups (please see the section entitled ‘Diversity and equality’ legislation and consulting with ‘hard to reach’ groups’ above, for a definition).

Public consultation questions Identify the issues on which the public’s views could usefully be sought, such as: a choice between different options variants along a particular option or providing two lanes or three lanes environmental affects (i.e. the number of residential properties likely to be demolished; number of businesses in close proximity and the proximity to schools and hospitals; potential loss of agricultural land and public open space; effects on the landscape and other environmental effects; affected, loss of agricultural land, etc) what is important to them (such as journey time reliability, protecting the environment, safety, etc)


PART 2: METHOD OF PUBLIC CONSULTATION Public Consultation is not a rigid or formal procedure. There is nothing in law that prescribes methods for consulting the public. For instance, there is no statutory requirement for the Agency to produce a public consultation leaflet or to hold a public exhibition. Nevertheless, the leaflet and the exhibition are typically seen as the most effective methods of consulting with the large numbers of people that are often affected by major schemes. The form and manner of the consultation should be appropriate to the scale and potential impact of the scheme; its sensitivities (if any); any previous public consultations and changes to the scheme since those; the public demographic we wish to consult with and the extent of the questions/issues/options to be consulted on. It might include leaflets and public exhibitions. When considering the form and manner of the consultation, it is important to have regard to the New Spending controls on all Agency advertising, marketing and communications expenditure effective 1 April 2011 - HAU10/11-10


If you are planning exhibitions, think about where and when to hold them. You may decide that one venue can be used to reach all potential interested parties or, for larger schemes, that a series of exhibitions should be planned running along the length of the scheme. The public will usually wish to see the exhibition as soon as they can during the first couple of days, so there is unlikely to be any advantage in staying at one location for more than three days. Ensure that the opening hours give everyone an opportunity to attend. Take account of early closing days and market days. Unmanned exhibitions

Exhibitions do not always have to be manned. The exhibition panels should be selfexplanatory and provide useful information to visitors even without an opportunity to talk to the Agency’s representatives promoting the scheme. Indeed, some people may be intimidated by the presence of officials. A box can be left for attendees to leave questions (ensure you ask for their contact details so that a reply can be given) which can be answered at a later date. Unmanned exhibitions can be set up in any local public place that is open for long periods of the day, such as libraries, leisure centres, rail stations and even supermarkets and shopping centres. They can even be arranged at meeting places such as social clubs/societies. Unmanned exhibitions offer a number of advantages, they can be left over a number of days and are accessible for longer hours of the day, they may reach people who are ‘hard to reach’ or are normally too busy to attend.


Even where a manned exhibition has been held, it might be worthwhile arranging for the panels to be moved to a local public place afterwards, to be viewed by people who were unable to attend. Hard to reach groups

Consider how best to engage with any hard to reach groups. Local authorities often have Community Liaison Officers and/or a Community Voluntary Service, who can provide details of local groups. They may have conducted local consultations and may be able to advise on how they engaged with hard to reach groups. Increasingly, local authorities have community pages on their website providing contact information for community representatives. An approach should be made to community representatives of hard to reach groups to discuss how they wish to be consulted, for example; Printing leaflets in large print/Braille or in different languages (but have regard for the Department of Communities and Local Government’s publication ‘Guidance for local authorities on translation of publications [860 KB] which sets out aims to reduce the amount of translation, by rejecting automatic translation of documents in favour of a more selective approach. It encourages local authorities to consider whether translation is necessary, for which documents it is appropriate, whether it should be available on demand, and whether it can be done in a way that helps people learn English. In short, translation is targeted in a way that meets the needs of communities.) Depositing leaflets or displaying posters in meeting places of hard to reach groups, such a places of worship or local shops specialising in cultural produce. Arranging an interpreter at the exhibition(s). Care should be taken not to unduly raise expectations when discussing consultation approaches with local groups/community representatives. The limitations of what the Agency can do, having regard for the timescale for the consultation and resources available (both financial and staff) should be made clear at the outset. For further useful reading material: The Equality and Human Rights Commission (formerly the Commission for Racial Equality) EHRC - provides advice on promoting racial equality and has further information on consulting with ethnic minority communities. The Inter Faith Network for the UK promotes good relations between people of different faiths. They can be contacted at: [email protected] Age UK: Consulting and engaging with older people - This quick-reference guide compiled directly from the comments, views and experiences sent in to Help the


Aged by older people, provides a tool to those seeking to engage the participation of older citizens. The Home Office document: ‘Working Together Cooperation between Government and Faith Communities’. ‘Recommendations of the Steering Group reviewing patterns of engagement between Government and Faith Communities in England’.


There is an increased duty to disseminate information electronically. The presumption should be that all public information produced for or following consultation should be available on the Agency’s website. The law requires that the Environmental Statement is made available on the Agency’s website from the time when the public notice is published in local newspaper(s). Piggy back consultations

This approach uses existing organisations to help engage the public. Some will distribute (usually electronically) information to their members. Others have local events/meetings attracting members where the Agency could consider setting out a stall or displaying an exhibition. Events, such as school or village fetes can also be effective, and can sometimes target groups that would otherwise be hard to reach. Parishes may also have open meetings about local issues (local plans, development, etc) with their constituents, where a small exhibition could be set up.

Joint consultations with local authority schemes

There may be occasions where a trunk road proposal is related to a local authority scheme. If both are going to public consultation at the same time, a joint public consultation strategy might be appropriate. Where a joint consultation is to be undertaken, care should be taken not to confuse the public. An undertaking should also be obtained from the local authority that they will not announce the results of the local scheme until the Agency is ready to announce the result of the trunk road proposal (the announcement of the local scheme could imply that the Agency has also reached a decision). Publicising the public consultation

Consider how you are going to publicise the consultation.


Advertisements in local newspapers and posters in libraries, post offices, petrol filling stations, local supermarkets, etc, can advertise local exhibitions. A news release (formerly known as a Press Notice) and a Press Preview (which could be held just prior to a public exhibition, but separately to any formal presentation for local authorities and dignitaries), will attract media interest and help publicise the consultation.

Public consultation feedback A log of any issues raised by members of the public or stakeholders and/or promises made by, or on behalf of, the Agency, should be compiled during the consultation and maintained throughout the development of the scheme.

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Public Consultation Leaflet and Questionnaire Public Consultation Leaflet It is a good idea to instruct the consultants to provide the base material for the leaflets and have the design prepared by the Agency’s Graphics team in accordance with HA visual identity guidelines. If the consultants undertake the design work, it will still require approval by HA Graphics. Style

The style of the leaflet, it should be: •

Short, easy to follow and to the point

Divided into boldly headed sections, each dealing with a different aspect of the scheme


Please see the Public Consultation Leaflet product definition for details of the content to be included in the leaflet. In preparing the content, ensure that sufficient information is provided to enable the consultee to make an informed response about the proposal. In this respect, the courts ruled (in the judgment in Coughlan [2001]) that ‘An authority’s obligation is to let those who have potential interest in the subject matter know in clear terms what the proposal is and why it is under positive consideration, telling them enough (which may be a good deal) to enable them to make an intelligent response’. Photographs

Photographs may show identifiable locations where the present trunk road clearly deserves improvement (e.g. a tight bend or a congested junction or heavy goods vehicles in a residential area). Avoid photographs implying a preference for any particular option. Avoid showing vehicle registration plates or other identifiable markings. If this is unavoidable then these must be blanked out of the photograph before printing. Maps

A diagrammatic map is generally more appropriate at this stage than an Ordnance Survey map, as it avoids giving the possibly misleading impression that the early consultation option(s) is defined to the same degree of detail as Ordnance Survey, which they are often not. It may be helpful to explain this in the leaflet to avoid questions/criticisms from members of the public who may be attempting to identify the precise alignment of the option in relation to their property. However, a diagrammatic map may include a single Ordnance Survey grid reference.


When showing the options on a map, avoid colours that people with colour blindness may have difficulty distinguishing. It is recommended that options are numbered as well as showing them in different colours. Statement of Highways Agency's Preference

Sometimes the Agency will have strong grounds for preferring one of the options even at this early stage. Stating a preference could impose a restraint on the consultation, but the leaflet may emphasise that this is provisional and that the public's comments will be fully considered before any firm decisions are taken. Rejected options

Any options rejected prior to the public consultation should be shown in the consultation leaflet. This is required to show that the Agency has given fair and equal consideration to all the identified options in the Technical Appraisal Report. To avoid confusion, the consultation and rejected options should be shown on separate plans in the leaflet. This is relatively straightforward when the alignments of the rejected options can be shown on a single plan. However, this is not always convenient, for example junction improvement schemes, or schemes where there are several minor variations along an option. If the rejected options cannot be conveniently shown in the leaflet, they should be shown at the public consultation exhibitions (if exhibitions are being held) and on the Agency’s website. Details should also be made available for anyone who requests them. The consultation leaflet must advise where details of the rejected routes can be seen or where details can be requested from. The FOI disclaimer must be included alongside the name and contact details of the Agency’s consultation co-ordinator for comments about the consultation process, not the consultation itself.

The Questionnaire The public consultation leaflet should include a questionnaire as either an integral tear-off slip or as a separate sheet. Producing a questionnaire for the consultation enables the information on the responses to be submitted in a consistent format, which can be handled more easily, to assess the results. Please see the Public Consultation Leaflet product definition for details of the standard questions that should be asked. The opening questions should ask the consultee for their name and contact details and request that they complete the diversity section. This should explain why the Agency is asking for the information and what use it will be put to. Respondees may decide not to complete the diversity section. Either way, their opinions about the option(s) put to them must be taken into account in deciding on a preferred option.


The main body of the questionnaire will be about the option(s) selected for consultation and their environmental affects. It is useful to provide space at the end of the questionnaire for consultees to give any general comments. The questionnaire should also state that the Agency’s selection of option(s) for consultation does not preclude the suggestion of others. Drafting the questions

Consider the following when drafting questions. Try to keep questions as short as possible. Focused questions usually produce more useful responses than general ones Tell the consultee how long it should take to complete the questionnaire Use simple words: people will be less inclined to answer questions they don’t understand; avoid technical terms and jargon Start by asking relatively straightforward questions before those requiring more complex answers If you have several questions of a similar theme, group them together If you give people a scale on which to score something, tell them which end is high and which low Only use ‘closed’ questions where you want yes/no answers 'Why?’ questions tend to get explanations and justifications; whilst ‘what?’ questions tend to get information Be careful not to lead people in a particular direction, either through the wording of the question or the examples you use Avoid composite questions such as “What are the advantages and disadvantages of ….?” Separate them Avoid questions that are likely to have a predictable answer. For example, “Is a safer highway important to you?” Instead ask the consultee what is important to them, maybe with a list of answers such as journey time reliability, protecting the environment, safety, etc. Postal Arrangements for the return of Questionnaires

The Agency should arrange for a Business Reply Service so that consultees can return their completed questionnaires free of charge. The Property Facilities Management team should be able to arrange a Business Reply Paid licence for the address where completed questionnaires are to be returned.


The design of questionnaires to be returned through a Business Reply Service is subject to Post Office approval. In the past, the Post Office has approved the following designs, but an early approach should be made to them to seek their approval, before a decision is taken and certainly before the leaflets/questionnaires are provided. A loose-leaf sheet which is gummed at the edges, with the reply paid address on the back. The envelope is formed by folding the sheet in half and sealing it A questionnaire similar to above but which is folded instead of being gummed. The envelope is formed by folding the sheet into half, then into thirds, one third being tucked into another Folded and placed in pre-paid envelopes (no Post Office approval required) An additional method is to set up the questionnaire on the HA website along with a dedicated email address for replies.

Distribution of the consultation leaflet and questionnaire Public

The most effective means of ensuring that the public see a copy of the consultation leaflet is to arrange home delivery. This can be done by the Post Office or hand delivered by the consultants to each household in the public consultation target area. Specify the period in which the delivery is to take place. Ask consultants to prepare listings for delivery. Delivery of the leaflet may coincide with the newspaper advertisements about the consultation appearing in the press. MPs and MEPs

On major schemes, Ministers normally like the opportunity to write to local MPs and MEPs and would expect the Agency to supply the Private Office with a draft courtesy letter to sign and send. Website

The Agency’s Web Team can advise on the requirements for placing documents and plans on the website and will need sufficient advance notice of the publication date. Contact Online Services

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Public Consultation Exhibition An exhibition is a good opportunity for the Agency to receive feedback from the public. If a public consultation exhibition(s) is planned, details of the location(s) and duration should be outlined in the Public Consultation Strategy.

Venue Local authorities should be approached to establish the availability of village halls and other public buildings. Similarly, schools and colleges can be approached. Select a location(s) that is locally well known and conveniently located for those expected to attend. The venue should be assessable to all (wheelchair access, etc). The Equality Act 2010 contains a general duty on public authorities to take steps to take account of a disabled person’s disabilities. A person has a disability for the purposes of the Act if he/she has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his/her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Timing It may be appropriate to open the exhibition about one week after the issue of the public consultation leaflet. This allows time for local weekly newspapers to give coverage to the public consultation.

Opening Times If possible opening times should include at least one evening and/or a Saturday morning. Additional evening periods should be considered where it is known to be difficult for people to attend during the day, Typical opening times are 10am to 6pm or 2pm to 8pm, but these will vary according to local circumstances and the availability of the exhibition venue (including time for setting up the panels, interactive equipment, etc). For large or potentially contentious schemes it is advisable to have one day when the exhibition is open until 8pm or later.

Exhibition Material The exhibition provides an opportunity to explain the option(s) in greater detail than is possible in the consultation leaflet. Interactive equipment can give visual tours of how each option would look if built. Artwork for the Exhibition will usually be produced by the Consultants, after discussions with the project team. However, it will need to be approved by the Agency’s Graphics teams, to ensure compliance with the Agency’s guidelines ‘Our visual identity’ and ‘Our tone of voice’.


It is a good idea to instruct the consultants to provide the base material for the exhibition and have the design prepared by HA Graphics. If the consultants undertake the design work, it will still require approval by HA Graphics. The display panels/interactive equipment will typically contain the following information: An ‘introductory’ welcome panel, explaining the purpose of the exhibition A map of the present route and the problems associated with it, illustrated by photographs of traffic congestion, accident black spots (but not photographs of accidents), safety problems, etc. This should be supported by a short text explaining the problem and the means by which it can be resolved. Care should be taken in the presentation as local residents will expect to see their local circumstances represented. A diagrammatic map showing the proposed alignment of each public consultation option, with captions highlighting particular features (only features that would be provided if the option was built should be shown and, likewise, junctions should be shown with circular symbols stating that these are indicative of the likely position), benefits and environmental effects. A full view of the area through which the proposed option(s) would run. A diagrammatic map showing the relationship of the option(s) with other main roads, settlements and improvements in the area A diagrammatic map showing how the planning of the option(s) is constrained by factors such as, built up areas, woodland, SSSIs, areas of archaeological interest, etc The expected traffic and noise levels and an explanation of any mitigation measures. To present the noise levels in an understandable format, they can be compared to common situations, for example, aircraft noise or a tv/radio. An option comparison table (usually an expanded version of the one in the consultation leaflet) A diagrammatic map showing any option(s) that has been rejected prior to the public consultation, together with an explanation with reference to the criteria in the Technical Appraisal Report and the Appraisal Summary Table, of the reason(s) why that option was rejected The latest return date for the questionnaires and an explanation of how they will be taken in to account in deciding a preferred option. This should also advise that the questionnaire will not prejudice anyone’s rights to make representations and objections at the Orders publication and Public Inquiry stages. The stages the scheme will proceed through after the public consultation.


Any other useful information such as longitudinal sections, typical cross sections, photographs and/or compensation information. Proposed landscaping can be presented by virtual photographs or tours, showing how the scheme would look once the planting matures. However, care should be taken to show only those features that would be provided if that option was selected as the preferred route. All maps should contain a disclaimer that they are subject to alteration. They should also show a north point and, ideally, be mounted with north at the top. If maps have to be mounted sideways, principle place names should be entered so that they are in a horizontal position. Photographs should contain a disclaimer that they can only represent limited views at the locations where they were taken. Be careful not to identify residential property too clearly, as this can cause distress to the owner. Remove vehicle registration numbers and other identifying features from photographs.

Layout of the exhibition Consider a suitable sequence for the display of the panels and any interactive equipment. Also consider which panels are likely to attract the most attention and ensure that they are placed in an open position. If very large numbers of attendees are expected, it may be useful to repeat the principal panels on opposite sides of the exhibition venue.

Policy on allowing third parties to distribute leaflets at exhibitions Sometimes, local action groups will produce their own literature and hand this out to people as they arrive at the exhibition. The Agency has no control over this where action groups are lobbying beyond the boundary of the exhibition venue, unless they are causing a nuisance in which case the police may be informed. Sometimes, local action groups will ask if they can leave their literature inside the exhibition, for people to read and take away. It is for the Project Manager to exercise their discretion on whether this should be allowed. In considering the request, regard should be given to the content of the material (i.e. whether it factually incorrect or potentially libellous, or whether it only portrays a different point of view). If a request is allowed, DfT Legal advise that the Agency should arrange for the third party literature to be placed on a designated table which should make clear that it has not been produced by the Agency and, as such, there is a disclaimer on the content.

Staff briefing It is advisable to produce a briefing pack for all attendees, to include: The broad objectives of the public consultation Background to the scheme


Key facts about the option(s) taken to public consultation and the areas through which this would pass A list of questions, with answers, that the public are likely to ask Attendees should be clear that the exhibition is to present the options to the public for consideration in an equal light (unless it is a single option consultation); it is not about presenting a particular option that the Agency might wish to implement. In this respect, answers to questions should not imply that the Agency has already determined which option will be selected. Where the Agency has expressed a preferred option in the consultation leaflet, care should be taken not to prejudice the consultation, by implying that this will be the option the Agency selects regardless of the public’s views. Attendees should also be informed that information gathered at the exhibition should be handled in accordance with the Data Protection Act, Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations. It is advisable to arrange a meeting with everyone representing the Agency prior to the exhibition, where further briefing about the proposal can be given and to provide an opportunity for staff to ask questions.

Exhibition reception desk Consider manning a reception desk throughout the Exhibition to: Keep a record of the numbers attending Ensure that every visitor has a copy of the consultation leaflet and questionnaire Provide a focal point for referring visitors’ questions to a colleague with the appropriate expertise

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Public Consultation Publicity The publicity informs people of the existence of the public consultation and to encourage them to respond to it. Although some consultations, particularly on the more controversial schemes, will generate publicity of their own accord, a wide variety of publicity measures should be deployed to ensure wide coverage. Check the Public Consultation Strategy and the Communications Plan for details of the proposed publicity required to suit the circumstances of the scheme. Establish from the outset a close and continuing relationship with the HA Regional Press Office or GNN Regional Press Officer.

Newspaper Advertisements or fliers Fliers can work out cheaper than advertisements and reach a wide local audience. They are at least as likely to be seen and read as an advertisement. They could be in the form of the whole consultation leaflet (if it is not bulky) or a single sheet letting the reader know where to get more information, in the same way as an advertisement.

Posters These need less detail than the paid advertisements, although it may be possible to use the same layout. The Agency’s Graphics teams can advise on the presentation and design and are able to get posters printed. They will need to be told what sizes of poster are required and the quantity of each size. The display of posters on public notice boards should be arranged in conjunction with the local authority, who may make a charge for putting them up. Local shopkeepers are best approached on an informal basis to see if they would be willing to display a poster in their shop window.

VIP Preview Exhibition It is HA practice to hold a VIP preview exhibition for local MPs and senior representatives from local authorities (including County, Unitary, Borough/District, local parishes and town councils), just before the public exhibition. MEPs and senior representatives of the emergency services should also be invited. Ministers normally like to offer the invitations and therefore a draft letter should be prepared and sent to Private Office for approval and despatch.

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Public Consultation Report Timetable The results of any consultation should be published before or alongside any further action. An early decision will shorten the period of uncertainty for local residents and where a number of options were consulted on, will remove generalised blight from all but the preferred route.

Assessing the public consultation responses Assessing the result should not be regarded as one of simple statistics. The exercise is not a vote or a referendum. Proper weight needs to be given to good reasoned arguments, in addition to establishing the level of support for one option over another. A realistic approach is not to expect a clear-cut preference for one option to emerge every time, but to be prepared for a mixture of opinion for and against each option, with individual preferences to be expressed for a variety of reasons. The results of the public consultation should be presented in the Public Consultation Report.

Public Consultation Report The report summarises the consultation options, the approach(es) taken to consult the public, the level of response received and a summary of the results. Please see the public consultation report product definition for further details about the content/structure of the report. Data Protection Act and Environmental Information Regulations

The report contains all the information required for publication under the Environmental Information Regulation (EIR), but it excludes personal data protected under Data Protection Act (DPA) and in confidence material (see definition in the section ‘The aims and framework within which public consultation is undertaken’ above). Where confidential information and personal data is included in the draft public consultation report to ensure that it is taken into account in reaching the decision, care should be taken to remove it before publication. Further work

Further work may be required to evaluate alternatives proposed by members of the public. It is for the Project Manager to judge the extent of the further work required. However, sufficient work should be undertaken to enable the Agency to either demonstrate that the alternative is not sustainable or clearly less sustainable (see: selection of sustainable options in the Public Consultation Strategy); or that further consultation is necessary.


It is important that the selection of the preferred option can be properly justified in relation to any alternative, including those put forward during the consultation. Where an alternative is not sustainable, details of the further work and the conclusion reached (i.e. the reasons for its rejection), should be included in the report, to demonstrate that the Agency has given it fair consideration. Obtaining approval to the preferred route (option)

The Minister must give approval to the preferred route. A ministerial submission should be prepared and agreed with DfT and, for regional schemes, the appropriate Government Office (GO). The submission should include: A purpose – to seek ministerial consent to the preferred route and the proposed handling of the announcement. Background – a brief description of the length and location of the scheme, together with a description of the improvements and benefits it will provide. A summary of the results of the public consultation and the views expressed by local residents/businesses (this could be included in an annex). Where alternatives have been put forward during the consultation, include details of any investigation and the outcome. The preferred route – details of the preferred route with a summary of the main points. MPs’MEPs’ views –details of the constituencies affected, the MPs views and whether they have made any formal representations. GO and Local Authority views – Details of the views expressed by the relevant GO and local authorities should be summarised. Timetable and handling of the announcement – details of the proposed timetable for making the announcement and the publicity planned. Typically the following should be annexed to the submission: A plan showing the preferred route A copy of the public consultation leaflet The draft press notice The preferred route announcement leaflet Letters to MPs and MEPs.


A summary of the environmental impacts of the preferred route usually in the form of ASTs.

Disclosure of the public consultation results before the preferred route is announced After the public consultation has closed the Agency may be asked to disclose the likely preferred route and/or details of any analysis of the public consultation, before the preferred route is announced. Regardless of whether a request comes from a local authority, statutory environmental body, other stakeholder or member of the public it must be handled in accordance with the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR). Each request must be considered on its merits and the type of information requested. In considering requests, the following EIR exemptions might apply: Regulation 12(4)(d) might apply if the Public Consultation Report is still being prepared. Regulation 12(4)(e) may apply to any internal discussions about which option should be selected in the light of the public consultation and pending the announcement of the preferred route. Before applying either exemption, the request should be subject to a Public interest Test. The Agency’s Freedom of Information and EIR Policy Officer should be consulted for further information and advice about handling requests for information in accordance with the EIR. In answering a request it may be necessary to qualify the information, if limited data is requested which could be misleading on its own. In turning down a request, the requester should be advised that a public announcement will be made once the responses to the public consultation have been analysed and the Minister has given approval to the preferred route. The requester should be given details of the likely timescale for announcing the preferred route and details of how the announcement will be made. Once the preferred route has been announced factual information about the consultation response should be freely given. Replies to such requests should be handled in accordance with the FOI, the EIR and the DPA.

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Statement of results of public consultation The announcement of the preferred route confirms which option the Minister has selected as the preferred route to be taken forward. It should summarise how the public consultation was undertaken and the responses that were received. It should give feedback on the responses received and how the consultation process influenced the decision.

The Preferred Route Announcement When announcing the preferred route, it should be clear that this is subject to the publication of draft Orders and the outcome of any public inquiry in to them. The announcement should summarise the responses to the public consultation, but avoid quoting comments directly from the responses. If the Agency provided such information in the announcement, notably when it appeared to support the Agency’s case, but not others, its absence would be all the more noticeable.

Publicity The announcement of the preferred route should be made as widely known as possible. Typically the results and the decision over the preferred route, are published through a leaflet to stakeholders, organisations, individuals with a potential interest in the proposal; issuing press notices; placing reports and leaflets on deposit and updating the HA website. Check the Public Consultation Strategy and the Communications Plan for details of the proposed publicity required to suit the circumstances of the scheme. The presumption should be that all reports prepared on the public consultation and all public information produced following consultation should be available on the Agency’s website.

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Handling applications and questions about Blight/Discretionary Purchase on consultation options Statutory blight does not arise on property along public consultation options, unless an option is protected by a TR111 route protection. However, for properties on consultation options, the Agency will consider using its discretionary powers in Section 248 of the Highways Act, where owners wish to sell their property for reasons unrelated to the road proposal; have been unable to do so because of the road proposal and; financial hardship would be incurred if they did not sell. The Land and Property Policy Team should be consulted on issues relating to discretionary purchase under section 248 powers.

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Repeating a Public Consultation It would be impossible to identify here, all the circumstances in which it would be necessary to consider repeating a Public Consultation. However, generally speaking, consideration should be given to repeating this whenever something happens to the scheme requiring the Agency to review its selection of the preferred route. It should also be considered after a period of inactivity of 2 years or more, following either the original public consultation or the preferred route announcement. Regardless of the reason for repeating the public consultation, the consultation must follow the consultation principles outlined in the Project Control Framework. That is, a consultation strategy must be produced to plan a consultation appropriate to: the sustainable options for consultation; its sensitivities (if any); the public demographic we wish to consult with and the extent of the questions/issues/options to be consulted on. The consultation should also be appropriate to the changes to the scheme since the previous public consultation (for instance, if only a junction layout has changed, the scale and potential impact could be narrowed to only those affected by the junction).

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