Let us Help You to Navigate the Consultation Process!
The time for responding to Wirral Council’s long overdue Local Plan is running out! The deadline
is 23 March 2020 has been extended to 17:00 on 6 April 2020. Having been through the online consultation process about the Local Plan, we know how challenging it is. There are many questions which we believe many people will not be able to understand and navigating the online process isn’t exactly easy…
That is not to say Wirral Council have not made an excellent effort to present the online consultation process. It does work and the developers hired in to produce it have clearly done their best in what must have been a limited time-scale.
This has clearly been an extraordinary amount of complex information to deliver.
Equally so, for the residents of the Borough, we predict it to be an almost Herculean task to digest and navigate through. However, thanks to a number of dedicated people who have spent time analysing it, we are now in a position to offer everyone help engaging with the consultation process.
First Steps – Understanding the Information
Thankfully, the Council have produced a digested version of their Issues and Options Local Plan Consultation Summary Document which we have uploaded for download:
This is only 24 pages long and is an easy read to give people a basic background without getting into the intricate detail. We advise people to download and look through it.
Choosing Your Method of Response
This is where you choose how you enter the maze…
If you want to go for the full, online, deep-sea diving experience, then you will have to register on the Council’s website after which, you will be able to log into their consultation portal. Once in, you will be able to go through the intricate process of answering the questions.
Having noticed the level of understanding needed to answer the questions and recognising the difficulty posed for many of us not versed in Local Authority Planning technicalities, let alone Local Plan jargon, the ever-tenacious Phil Simpson has produced an extremely helpful document which will assist people in answering the points.
Where possible, we would advise people to put the suggested answers into their own words whilst still delivering the same sentiment in response. A special word of thanks must go to Phil for putting this together. (We feel that in time, this may go down in Wirral folklore as the ‘Phil Simpson Document’!)
Questions About Specific Sites
Eventually, you will come to questions where it is necessary to reference specific sites identified for development. This is yet another hurdle to jump in the process. Thanks to the unstoppable force that is John Heath and our friends at ITPAS, they have produced their own document to help people find their way through the online labyrinth…
Responding to the Consultation Off-Line
If you have tried the online process and have found it a bit too daunting, it is actually possible to submit a scaled-down response and still make a meaningful contribution. To do this, you will have to download the Council’s Issues and Options Local Plan Consultation Questionnaire document, which is a PDF on which you can add comments.
How you add comments is entirely up to you, depending on how comfortable you feel about technology.
The easiest option is to download it, print it out (20 pages) and fill it in by hand for sending by post. You can of course use any of the previous documents we have suggested to help you answering.
Using a PC, Phone or Tablet to Answer the Questionnaire
It is actually possible to fill in the questionnaire, save it and send it by email. You will need a copy of Adobe’s (free) Acrobat Reader installed on your device to do this.
On a Desktop Computer
If you are using a Windows PC or a Mac computer, Adobe Reader comes with some hidden tools allowing you to add comments to a PDF. To access this, you will need to display the Fill & Sign tool-bar. This is hidden under the View menu under the Tools option:
The Fill & Sign tool-bar has a number of tools you can use to fill in the questionnaire. You will only need the Add Text and the Add Check Mark tools highlighted in the image below:
To add a tick to a check-box in the questionnaire, simply click on the tick icon in the tool-bar and add your tick to a check-box as in the image below:
To add text to the questionnaire, simply click on the Ab icon in the tool-bar and type your answer as in the image below:
You can copy and paste into the text box, but be warned, it pastes text as one long line and you will have to add line breaks manually! You can alter the size of your text using the 2 letter A buttons in the blue tab so expect to have to fiddle about a bit to make things fit! Incidentally, the online version only allows a maximum of 300 words for each answer.
Once you have finished adding ticks and text, you can save the PDF and email it to email@example.com.
On a Tablet or Other Hand-Held Device
If you have a device which has a stylus, such as an iPad Pro or one of the many Samsung ‘Note’ type smart-phones, these are ideal for adding hand written notes to a PDF file. For example, check out this video for Samsung:
Similarly, Apple device users can do the same thing:
In conclusion, it seems the slimmed down questionnaire is the simplest way of responding to the Local Plan.
Some Extra Measures
We also advise green belt supporters to go the extra mile by writing to the Council’s Forward Planning Team commenting about the overall consultation process and opposing any proposals for the future release of green belt under the Plan.
Once again, ITPAS have provided templates to use to help you write your letters. Our own green belt expert, Neil Parry, has also made available his own list of points which could be used in conjunction with the consultation process or in a letter to the Forward Planning Team.
These sample letters are in PDF for download as follows:
You can email letters to the Forward Planning Team using the firstname.lastname@example.org email address. If you prefer to write, please address letters to:
Forward Planning Team
Wallasey Town Hall
All letters should be headed with: ‘Response to Wirral Local Plan Consultation Feb 2020’.
We hope this information is of use, thank you for helping to save Wirral’s green belt!