SvN Associate, Lina Al-Dajani, provides her take to NRU’s Rob Jowett on the current state of engagement in the planning process and the potential of digital engagement to provide a more inclusive platform.
“Engagement is a critical part of the way, in Canada, we plan our cities,” SvN associate Lina Al-Dajani told NRU. “The current public consultation practice has turned somewhat into, or it’s perceived at times, as kind of a burden [on proponents] or an unfortunate necessity. And it often draws those [members of the community] who are vehemently opposed to the development and [who attend in the] service of NIMBYism activity. And [the reason] is because it is forcing people out of their homes to attend. So only those who are really passionate about the subject will be present.”
Al-Dajani says opening up the consultation process to include people joining remotely online would help bring more voices in and improve projects, while also helping to gain more support for development from the local community. She adds that hosting entirely virtual meetings removes a lot of logistical barriers to hosting in-person public consultations, such as securing a location and preparing physical presentation materials, meaning that companies would be more likely to host virtual meetings, or they could be used to supplement statutory in-person discussions.
“We can have a more fluid planning process if we can build consensus early with all parties who are involved,” says Al-Dajani. “Projects are often derailed by public opposition. And so if we can truly bring those stakeholders to the table and understand from them what their concerns are, and we can address them meaningfully through our designs, then we can avoid that displeasure with any planned community and we can build communities that are inclusive. And… the sooner we’re able to get to this consensus, the faster [proponents] will be able to get to [their] approvals.”