Addressing Our Housing Shortage: Activating the New Silent Majority



In 2015, Meeting Place Communications, working in partnership with Shelter, published a groundbreaking report into public attitudes to housebuilding. The report, entitled ‘Addressing our housing shortage: engaging the silent majority’, was based on a survey of 20,000 people carried out by YouGov. Participants were asked about their attitude to housebuilding in their local area, and about their attitudes to development-related issues, such as the impact on roads and the economy.

The headline results of the survey are clear: a majority of people are positive or neutral about homes being built in their local area. Supporters of local housebuilding were found to outnumber opponents by a ratio of 5:3, and just 11% of respondents were found to be strongly opposed to new homes. However, the study also found that opponents of housebuilding are more than twice as likely as supporters to get actively involved in the planning process.

The findings of the research presented a challenge for those who undertake public engagement in planning. Although a broad consensus of public support for new homes exists, it is clear that traditional consultation techniques are proving ineffective at engaging those most likely to support housebuilding. As a result, local planning debates are being dominated by a vocal, but unrepresentative, minority who oppose new homes.

Since 2015, MPC has worked to develop innovative and effective engagement techniques that help developers find and motivate support for their plans. Much of this activity has been informed by our 2015 research. The results of the survey have been matched with the ACORN demographic classification system to create a powerful tool which allows MPC to understand likely attitudes to new development in the areas surrounding the sites in which we work.

The demographic insights provided by our research have allowed us to identify and motivate support for a number of different planning applications. In some instances, supporters identified through research-informed engagement have spoken in support of applications at committee, delivering powerful messages to decision-makers.

Our research into public attitudes to housebuilding has proved invaluable in the consultations and campaigns we have devised over the last two years. However, we are now seeking to develop a more thorough understanding of how to engage groups most inclined to support housing and house building on a range of issues – from new homes, employment and transport projects right down to working with communities on existing developments to discuss change more effectively.

To build on our work with Shelter in 2015, we have carried out further research revisiting the key demographic data attained by ACORN together with quantitative surveys of UK residents as well as focus groups and surveys with previous consultees of Meeting Place Communications projects.

At Engagement 2017, we will be launching this new report in our plenary session entitled ‘Launch of a new Shelter Report: Activating the New Silent Majority’, where representatives from our partners Shelter, L&Q and Redrow will be speaking and taking part in the discussion throughout the day.

This article was written by Richard Parry, Account Manager at Meeting Place Communications.