Garden communities toolkit


Engaging the local community and stakeholders can create a garden community plan with roots in the local context.

To create a strong plan you should identify:

  • who to engage 

  • the main stakeholders

  • methods of engagement

  • how to manage stakeholders

Who to engage

You need to identify the main stakeholders who could be affected by, or have an interest in, the garden community project.

How to identify  the main stakeholders in your process:

  • research the geographical area affected by the garden community project, and who the  stakeholders or interest groups are  within it.

  • define what technical topic areas are of importance to the garden community project

  • find out who the decision-makers, delivery partners and responsible bodies are

  • identify the hard-to-reach stakeholders. This includes diverse groups who may have been historically marginalised during planning consultation processes

  • understand who the future residents of the garden community will be, and how their views be captured

Stakeholder mapping

This identifies who has a view on the garden community proposal, what their interest are, and how to engage with them.

  • community - a demographic range of local residents, local community groups, residents associations and parish councils, schools, youth groups and clubs, religious groups, advocacy groups for traditionally marginalised/hard-to-reach groups

  • business and Economic - local businesses, economic representative groups such as local enterprise partnerships and potential business partners

  • existing residents/ businesses - those who may be directly affected by a garden community (like residents of buildings on site)

  • technical - groups, organisations and officers with particular technical responsibilities or expertise, including: national representative bodies (like environment agency), local groups (like wildlife trusts), local authority officers

  • future users - future residents and occupants - as well as local people who will use new facilities in the garden community

  • industry - national and local bodies associated with the land uses proposed for your development

  • local authority leadership - chief executives and heads of department in relevant local authorities

  • political - elected members and MPs

  • investors - those with an interest in funding of the garden community’s development and / or delivery

  • developers - possible delivery partners

  • landowners - those with an interest in the land upon which your garden community is proposed

Methods of engagement

There are many ways you can engage with the community and other stakeholders.

Each method has advantages depending on the timing and type of stakeholders.

Make sure all materials are accessible to all and jargon free.



  • provides regular updates to various parties

  • maintains interest in a garden community

  • shares news and progress


  • all stakeholders with a long-term interest in garden community proposals

How to use

  • keep newsletter short and succinct

  • publish regularly - monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly

  • circulate by email and place copies in local outlets

Social media


  • reaches a wide audience

  • provides regular updates to various parties

  • maintains interest in a garden community

  • invites ideas to help shape specific aspects of a garden community


  • all stakeholders

  • can help to target some harder to reach groups

How to use

  • develop a social media strategy and take a targeted approach

  • consider innovative methods like opinion polls, video content, blogs and discussion networks

Drop in events


  • an informal way to create one-to-one conversations that give information and test responses to your garden community


  • all stakeholders, but mainly the local community

How to use

  • ensure drop-in sessions are planned at different times to maximise opportunities for attendance

  • host these in accessible locations close to stakeholders you wish to target

  • consider innovative ways to gain involvement such as interactive materials, like 3D models of the garden community



  • to gain diverse community involvement in shaping development proposals


  • helps to target some harder to reach groups

  • particularly successful with local community groups and schools

How to use

  • contact local schools, elderly and ethnic groups to find opportunities to meet and work on specific proposals or projects relating to your garden community.

  • use options like youth outreach work and detached youth work - engaging young people on the street rather than in schools/clubs

  • research community groups in the area and find opportunities to meet with them and hear their views.

  • consider the use of a system of community champions who encourage the wider community to engage in your development

Individual meeting


  • you can discuss particular topics in depth

  • identify roles and responsibilities

  • obtain information from a particular stakeholder


  • main partners

  • technical stakeholders

  • developers and landowners

How to use

  • set agendas prior to meetings to ensure meetings remain on track

Group briefings/ meetings/workshops


  • updates stakeholder groups on progress

  • seeks stakeholder views through discussion and debate

  • gets a collective balance of views from different stakeholders at important stages


  • elected members

  • community and interest groups

  • stakeholders with an interest in similar topic areas


  • consider grouping together groups or individuals with similar interests to streamline engagement

  • set agendas prior to meetings and consider using an independent person to chair meetings or briefings

  • use engaging techniques in workshops (like, 3D modelling, design charrettes)

  • use a facilitator



  • provides a central resource for stakeholders to answer queries and find out more

  • gives regular updates to various parties

  • maintains interest in a garden community and developing the brand

  • celebrating news and progress


  • all stakeholders

How to use

  • brand the website to ensure it’s consistent with other garden community materials

  • be clear on who manages the website

  • make sure the website structure is accessible

  • keep the website regularly updated

Proxy communities


  • plans for the needs of future occupants of the garden community

  • considers what support future occupants may need - particularly at the beginning of the project


  •  a demographically representative group made up of people who represent the types of demographic groups expected (or desired) to live and work in a garden community.

  • an experience-based group made up of people who live and work in existing recently developed settlements elsewhere

How to use

  • be clear on the status and role of the proxy group in the project

  • topics to address with the proxy group include - community development and support, infrastructure requirements including supporting sustainable movement choices, facilities and services required to support a new community

  • consider if the proxy communities should be retained throughout the planning of the garden community to give continuity in testing the plans as they evolve


Consultation is a formal means of engagement where feedback is sought on the details of a project. This feeds into decision making and/ or targeted inputs into the evolution of development proposals.

It’s a statutory requirement for Local Plan development and for consideration of planning applications

When to use

  • Use consultations when seeking views on your proposals at a particular stage in the process

  • visioning and strategic development proposals, masterplan development, design guidance preparation, and pre-application stage applications for planning permission

  • complying with statutory consultation requirements


  • all stakeholders

How to use

  • ensure consultation period is long enough to allow inputs from a wide range of stakeholders

  • think about how you present consultation materials to get the most from stakeholders

Managing stakeholder engagement

Advice on how to get the most from stakeholder engagement and participation

  • engage early in the planning process

  • have an up-to-date engagement strategy or plan in place. Set out who will be engaged, when and for what purpose. Useful if more than one party is involved in running engagement events

  • consistency in branding will help to raise and reinforce stakeholders’ awareness of a garden community project

  • identify a stakeholder lead. Someone who is the central point of contact for all communications with a particular stakeholder group

  • produce an individual engagement or communication plan. This is for main stakeholders and diverse hard to reach groups to map out the engagement process in as much detail as possible

  • agree (formally or informally) with main stakeholders a set of expectations. Do this to ensure each stakeholder group has understanding of the others’ motivations and expectations

  • explore if there’s a route of communication beyond the garden community project which could be a good channel of communication

Keeping a database

Make sure you have a record who has been contacted.

Useful database software is:

If you’re storing personal information

Learn about General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Further information

Engagement methods:


Hard to reach groups