Draft Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) - 2015

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(3) 2. General Principles

2.1 There are a number of principles about the approach to consultation, access to information, participation for all, openness and treatment of comments that apply to all areas of planning.

Consultation Charter

(2) 2.2 The Council has a Consultation Charter which identifies a number of principlesfor public consultation across its services. Its principles are reproduced below:

The Council acknowledges and undertakes that:

1. consultation is a fundamental part of good public service; it will be the starting point not an afterthought

2. consultation will be based on openness, trust, integrity and mutual respect for all participants

3. where appropriate, consultation will be used to seek views before decisions are made

4. requests to consult may come from inside or outside the Council

5. consultation will seek to involve all parties who can contribute to or who are affected by the outcome of consultation

6. it will seek to explain to people why they are being consulted, what they are being consulted about and how their views will contribute to any decision

7. some people will be less able to participate in consultation than others; specific efforts will be made to identify and target these people; every effort will be made to ensure that consultation is representative

8. it will seek to ensure that the issues are clearly understood and that objectives, timescales and expectations are clearly identified

9. relevant and easily understandable information will be provided to consultees with particular attention to those who have special communication needs

10. the results of the consultation and any impact upon Council decisions will be provided in the most appropriate form both to consultees and the wider community.

(2) 2.3 The Council also recognises that planning material is often technical in nature; hence, consultation documents will be as clear and concise as practicable, using plain English as far as possible, avoiding or at least explaining 'jargon' (possibly in a 'a glossary of terms') without detracting from the complexities of issues involved.

Accessing all interested groups and equalities

(3) 2.4 In terms of ensuring engagement of all sections of community, particular attention will be given to "hard to reach" groups. This includes meeting the public sector equality duty to advance equality of opportunity between different groups, associated with age, disability, gender/gender reassignment, pregnancy & maternity, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation characteristics. 'Equality Objectives' are set in in a separate document produced jointly with Wealden District Council. This is available online at http://www.rother.gov.uk/equality.

Means of involving people

(5) 2.5 The Council will seek to choose the appropriate consultation processes that best balance community impact, accessibility and available resources. Greater use is being made of online and social media methods of consultation, while appreciating that they are not accessible for all sections of the population. Some forms of consultation and public involvement can be time intensive. Hence, detailed decisions about the methods of involvement to be used at a particular stage will need to take into account the availability of resources at the time. In particular, events which require considerable staff involvement, such as exhibitions, will need to be prioritised to consultations where the outputs of such events will have the greatest benefits.

Availability of comments

2.6 As part of the transparency and openness of decision-making, and in accordance with the legal framework set by the Data Protection Act 1998, comments made on planning documents and on planning applications will be made publicly available. They cannot be treated in confidence. However, the Council will not publish personal information such as signatures, telephone numbers and emails online (Such information would still be available for inspection, as comments may be viewed, on request).

2.7 Comments made, whether on policy documents or planning applications should be made within the timescale prescribed, relate to the particular document/application, not be anonymous and not be potentially libellous, defamatory, threatening, abusive or likely to incite racial hatred.

Consideration of comments

2.8 All comments made in response to consultations, including on planning policy documents and on planning applications will be taken into account in decision-making where they relate to 'material considerations'. Further advice on what are 'material considerations' for planning purposes are outlined in section 4.

(2) 2.9 However, it may not always be appropriate to determine matters in line with comments received. The Council is obliged to consider, firstly, conformity with local planning policies, consistency with national policies, as well as have regard to all material considerations (which may pull in different directions) in making decisions.

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