A tale of two applications…

One night earlier this week was a fascinating night for Marengo Communications. You may conclude we need to get out more, but in truth, we’re very happy in our niche.

We had the strange circumstance of two applications before the same planning committee. It’s not something that happens often, but we were prepared. Ward members spoken to, members briefing notes issued and a exceptional level of detailed knowledge regarding each site. Granted the situation was muddled and confused somewhat by a recent change in leadership – not party you understand – but leadership.

In the case of Application Number One, we were brought in at the latter stages of a negotiated consent. Significant local opposition, misguided, but not without passion. Small children duly drafted in to raise emotion levels and pleas made on their behalf to ‘consider their exposure to democracy’. Collectively as a team, considerable time spent with officers and members to ensure a proper understanding. Excellent planning consultants with an eye for detail and an officer recommendation to boot. We had duly engaged and were happy with ward member support (albeit muted). The die was cast and lo and behold, newly appointed members played to the gallery. Shamelessly currying favour – favour incidentally that would not past muster at appeal – but curry they did. Our application was refused – cross party – 7 votes to 4. Without doubt an appeal loss on the cards, but public opinion satiated. Texts from our correspondent to the ward member were met with genuine shock . . .

Then onto Application Number Two. On this occasion we managed the public consultation – with minimal input from the actual public. 8 consultee responses . . . and ward members briefings relatively pedestrian. Albeit (at the time) in the leaders ward . . .  with the change in political leadership we duly engaged, offered further briefings and circulated a ‘response to engagement’ note. The change is leadership brought about comforts. An engaged new senior team and a lack of opposition – the slam dunk beckoned. On the night we were confronted by a ward members intention to speak . . . in opposition . . . no less than the former Council leader. Appearing at their first committee in years . . . a decade no less . . . but with the clear and expressed purpose of objecting. Without ‘hope or agenda’ . . . objecting to our officer recommended application. The objection was baseless, heinous and opportunistic, but nevertheless a heart in the mouth experience. Speeches were made, a vote was called for . . . and consent was declared.

Never let it be said that our industry is without drama, enjoyment or the unexpected. Last night we endured an unholy trinity . . . more than anything, political engagement and understanding were key. As ever, it brought no guarantees, but without doubt, it delivered a real insight into the behaviour and actions of much-maligned elected members.

If you’d like to discuss any of your schemes, and how we can help get them across the line, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Andy Martin

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