SAVILLS INVOLVEMENT IN COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Community engagement has always been a core part of Savills services for its clients, particularly through the planning, rural management, forestry and energy teams. This has been delivered both formally and informally as part of their role in supporting a wide range of public and private sector clients.
Savills feel it has generally been the case that where landowner engagement with local communities happens more regularly and naturally, the ability to discuss and agree new proposals with communities and gain community support for new projects is greater. Aware of policy direction and feeling increasing social pressure on rural land, Savills has developed a broader and more structured community engagement service. The objective of this service is to work with clients to gain greater insight into the perspectives of their local communities, with the aim of achieving efficient and sustainable outcomes.
When the Government brought out its Guidance on Engaging Communities in Decisions Relating to Land and the Scottish Land Commission started its work on engagement including developing its protocols, Savills observed that the public support for wider engagement over non-planning related activities was increasing. Savills noticed that many landowners and land managers were new to the concepts and processes around engagement and needed assistance in developing their approaches and Community Engagement Plans. They therefore looked at how they could work with landowners to deliver effective engagement with local communities making use of the Commission's Protocols and Route Map.
Savills spoke to their staff and noted a real enthusiasm and buy-in to increase involvement in community engagement. They spoke with several clients about the guidance and Commission protocols and the benefits of a clear commitment to and culture of community engagement on estates. They have been delighted by the extent to which landowners and managers have greeted this with interest and enthusiasm.
In tandem, Savills worked with and drew on the expertise of the Commission in getting clear messages to clients around the need for engagement. They have welcomed the “realistic and pragmatic approach” taken by the Commission.
Benefits and Lessons Learned
Savills report that the Commission's protocols, guidance and matrices are a useful mechanism to channel thinking and action through a very logical process. They are finding that some internal work is required first on some estates in order to consider how best to arrange people and processes to make community engagement more cultural. Savills are running workshops with clients to introduce them to the concepts and practicalities of community engagement and to help them and their key staff to make engagement a natural part of their processes.
Savills are finding that clients are ready to embrace greater levels of community engagement and really see the benefits of doing so. Many hope that greater communication will help with mutual understanding of estate operations and community needs.
Savills are rolling out a Community Engagement support service to landowners to assist them in developing greater internal awareness and improved processes to enable them to engage more as well as helping them deepen relationships with local communities.
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