The H4 Perspective
The scale of planning applications has grown tremendously over the last few years. Developers today face the arduous task of ticking boxes to satisfy the authorities and to try and anticipate the likely objections from local interest groups. The authorities want to know that the development will be sympathetic to the environment and the locals need to be convinced that their life will be positively affected with any new scheme.
Cynical objectors view most applications as an opportunity for developers to make a profit at the expense of something close to the objector’s heart. That might be an unspoilt view, the local pub or simply the status quo. Whatever it is, the objector is passionate and active. Objectors have become more vocal and more organised. Social media mean objectors mobilise easily and more efficiently than the once a month meeting in the village hall.
The internet and social media has significantly changed this planning process but there is something else at play that many developers have not yet addressed. The big challenge over the coming decade is related to ageing. The ageing issue that will confront the Western economies over the coming decade is the transitioning out of the workforce by the Baby Boomer generation. This will mean that baby boomers will be the first generation of retirees who will be university educated, opinionated, articulate, and literate and crucially - have time on their hands.
This cross section of society are often used to occupying positions in business or the public sector and are very effective at getting their contemporaries to coalesce around a cause or a social movement. For this generation, objection increasingly becomes a sport. So the question now is how governments and businesses manage the interest of the Baby Boomers whilst continuing to provide for the generation that are still economically active?
Understanding this demographic and shift is an essential part of getting to the hearts and minds of the objector. We stress we must approach telling any story with an open mind from the objector's eye. This is usually contrary to standard real estate planning and marketing behaviour but times have changed. We also feel that unless a developer is creating digital assets that can influence, online objectors will continually steal a march and continually oppose by default.
One of the reasons for this is that objectors are not used to the industry jargon, master plan framework, visual impact assessment, or environmental impact assessments. It might be the first and last time they ever need to read such a report, and they could be forgiven for getting angry and annoyed at having to trawl through reams of text which appears to be foreign to their daily vocabulary.
Our job is to convert the objectors into supporters by influencing them with a story that has to be told in such a way that will strike a chord, touch the heart and calm the cynical view.
Telling that story with film and animation seen from many perspectives is an art form adopted in many other industries. Post boom, the property industry cannot afford to produce the same material as it has for decades and expect to quell the dissenting voices that are now so well equipped to fight a development. With protracted planning applications, the potential audience is widespread and developers can now no longer afford to neglect them.