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Election Digest: Cooling the fever


From the initial rain clouds and shock of Sunak’s General Election announcement, we’re acclimatising to the prospect of a new dawn – albeit a foggy fever-pitch of speculation – as we come to terms with what the poll means for our sector.

From now until 4 July, Meeting Place’s weekly Election Digest will help readers understand the issues at hand – exploring what it could all mean for the built environment. We’ll share tips, assess the national picture, put regions in the spotlight and focus on the major impacts across the development spectrum.

But this week, we’re cooling the election fever with our five top tips for navigating the pre-election period.

1. Pre-election nerves

Exercise caution around the ‘pre-election period’, or the ‘period of heightened sensitivity’. The clue is very much in the title…

Be wary and think carefully about whether planned activities might need to change or be postponed, avoiding your development becoming a political football during the campaign. Does your development lie within a key election battleground?

It’s worth noting, that planning applications can still be submitted and determined during this period, but think carefully about whether the timing is right.

2.  Events

Planned engagement events should be balanced against the political risks facing your development.

There will be an added complication of the upcoming school summer holidays, although there is a window of a few weeks immediately after the election where events and consultations can be held, reducing the risk of the proposals being thrust into the political spotlight.

If this isn’t possible, engagement programmes may need to wait until September.

3. Engaging councillors

During the period of heightened sensitivity, elected members are not able to use council communications or public funds for campaigns. They can still hold meetings, attend events and make press statements, but must not use council resources when doing so.

Planned engagement with elected members can take place but, once again, this has to be weighed up with the existing plan to engage during the election period, factoring parliamentary candidates’ views toward new development.

Councillors may use the election as an opportunity to avoid engaging with developers, so any meetings or planned meetings that you’re trying to get in the diary may need to be reconfirmed or moved.

4. Parliamentary candidates

During the pre-election period, candidates are entitled to state their views on any issue or matter within the area they are standing. It’s vital to understand the risks that if you are engaging with parliamentary candidates this can cause your scheme to become a political issue should they then actively campaign against it.

While a lot of candidates have already been announced, there will now be a flurry of work over the next fortnight for parties to finalise nominations. Close monitoring will reveal if a local ward member for a site is standing at the election.

5. Councils

Local authorities are required to follow statutory guidance about publicity all year round. The Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity (England) requires that, among other things, local council communications should not use public funds to mount publicity campaigns that seek to influence voters at any time of year.

If your project involves engagement around a strategic framework or masterplan on behalf of a local authority or government body, this will likely need to be rescheduled. Local plan and other consultations will likely be altered too.

Keep a close eye on council meetings. We’ve seen in previous general elections that planning committees can be delayed until after polling day. This is an individual choice, so will vary from one council to another.

Cutting through the election noise

Drop us a note if you need help monitoring, consulting or navigating during these uncertain times –  

We’ll be back with more next week. Stay tuned…

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