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Project Description

Overcoming consultation fatigue, maximising the profile of the consultation by using a media partner, involving project champions & social media, 8,000 homes received project information packs, questionnaire responses received from 676 people and meetings with 340 people face to face.

Intense Planning and Programming

Before starting the public consultation process on the ground in March 2012, an intense period of planning and programming took place. The development of the consultation approach dispensed with the traditional ‘static exhibition in a hall’ technique, and embraced more active and ‘hands on’ methods of public engagement and outreach work. This approach prioritised going out and personally meeting people in a bid to maximise the level of participation and response. We gave those members of the community that we met face to face the option of having elements of their one to one interviews with us included within our Public Consultation Findings & Recommendations Report. Many people agreed to this, and the section within our report which directly quotes the voices, hopes and concerns of those participants is one of the most compelling, insightful sections of the document.

Consultation Media Partner, Project Champions & Social Media

A comprehensive marketing and media campaign was developed in partnership with the Andersonstown News, as the town centre media partner. This included weekly communications meetings to agree the content of editorial/advertorial and a project specific advertising campaign, which started a month in advance of the consultation and ran over six weeks to raise awareness of the town centre project, its brand and the imminent public consultation outreach exercise. The Project Champions provided personal thoughts as interviews in themed editorials which stimulated local discussion and healthy debate.

For example, local man Terry George was visiting the area to celebrate his recent Oscar winning success. When he was there he spoke to the Andersonstown News journalist and did a very interesting interview which discussed the highs and lows of his childhood growing up in the Colin area which also allowed him to articulate his personal hopes for the area and for the new Town Centre. Interviews such as this one built up interest across the community around the possibilities for the future and started people talking about it. It meant that when we went out to speak to people, many of them had already considered their hopes for the new town centre and were enthusiastic to share them with us.

Social media, Facebook and Twitter, and the Colin Neighbourhood Partnership website were used to share information, particularly with young people.


Across Colin’s four neighbourhoods, there was strong consensus in support of the new town centre site as a neutral area that all four neighbourhoods identified as being ‘theirs’, and an enthusiasm for a revised Combined Approach Masterplan that was developed as a result of the consultation process. The need for community enablers was highlighted to build and expand on the existing community momentum to develop a culture of stewardship for the area in advance of the development of the physical structures.

Learning Outcomes

  • The project team was very impressed by the enthusiasm, passion, detailed interest and general commitment of everybody, both young and old, who contributed.
  • The leaflets, which included questionnaires, provided essential primary data. The importance of using statisticians and professional questionnaire designers to allow us to collect the most insightful data was realised as a key lesson learnt.
  • The focus groups, one to one discussions, presentations and in-depth interviews provided a greater insight into the thoughts, wishes and fears of the local community. We were careful to request and receive formal written approval to use their photographs and the content of their interviews before publishing either photos or text.
  • By extending the time taken to carry out this public consultation, the team had the opportunity to explain the proposals and discuss the concerns and aspirations of local residents in much greater detail than would otherwise have been possible. In this case, we took advantage of the government guidance around designing a consultation process which is proportionate to the scale of the project. The new Colin town centre is potentially a huge combined cross departmental and private sector investment project. It was critical that we took the time to properly understand the context of the project and the needs of the end-users, to ensure the social sustainability of the new built environment.
  • The team had to be ready for changes to the initial development framework plan, the biggest of which was the proposal to build a new post-primary school, with shared services and facilities outside school hours, in the proposed new town centre. Prior to this, it was thought that the project would be retail and primary school led but the detailed community outreach exercise provided the project team with the evidence which led to the town centre project becoming anchored by post primary education, health, community, culture, arts and leisure focused facilities instead.


  • This process required part-time input from two SIB staff for 12 months plus consultancy fees of approximately 0.1% of the project cost, excluding printing and other expenses.

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