While construction’s reputation is on the up, community relations is one area where improvements can still be made.
Time pressures on site managers mean there isn’t always the chance to implement or review a community relations strategy as thoroughly as hoped.
Forward planning and clear communication can make dramatic improvements to the smooth running of community support for a particular development.
Taking time to consider simple, common-sense practices in the early stages pay dividends for the duration of the project.
Identify and advise neighbours of project activity at the earliest opportunity. Keep them updated and informed and be seen to work with them as much as possible.
A local e-newsletter, PR stories in the press or meetings with local MPs can help to harness and promote contractor support. However, rather than just ‘broadcast’ site news, make sure you encourage dialogue and seek feedback on performance.
Clear signage with contact details including HO.DDA support access and out of hours contact details are a must.
Parking is a common complaint from neighbours and where possible we ask that developers contain the majority of parking on site. This can also be minimised by encouraging van share, promoting public transport networks or implementing a shuttle bus.
Give staff advice on considerate parking in the street, such as no parking on pavements or avoid blocking drives. Again, contact details should be provided and any diversions should be properly signed and managed.
An understanding of who the neighbours are and particular demographics are always helpful when planning site works. Avoid early starts and minimise activity over weekends.
Consider low-noise methods, control radio use and advise staff of behavioural standards, i.e. no shouting or swearing.
Develop a community social responsibility policy
As standard practice, sites should put something positive and lasting back into the community. This helps to counteract any negativity and demonstrates a commitment to professional standards.
Engagement with local schools, colleges, businesses and residents is a good way to leverage support and understanding.
We advise sites to consider legacy opportunities or identify a local goodwill project to support, however small. Local trades, manpower, youth unemployment and training are areas to consider.
Think presentation at all times!
Check boundaries, clear litter, ensure hoardings are attractive, clean and intact. Also, ensure you minimise dust and mud, as this will inevitably aggravate any ill-feeling. A well-presented site and staff will only give residents and the community confidence in the work.
John Evans is a director of the Considerate Constructors Scheme