Taking the local pulse

The team used as many means as were reasonable to collect and analyse what Whitchurch residents feel ismost important about the look and feel of the place. This public pulse-taking included:

  • An A5 four-page leaflet (A) distributed throughout the parish primarily with the February 2003 parish magazine to more than 1,700 households in the parish. The leaflet explained what a design statement is and how it is used, who the team members are, why such a statement is needed by Whitchurch and the team’s plans for collecting opinions and producing the report
  • A public opinion survey, (B) two copies of which were distributed with each of the above leaflets to be returned to a special box at the Newbury Building Society in the town centre. The survey questionnaire sought views on why people stayed or moved to Whitchurch and which features they most valued. An open-ended question at the end of the questionnaire allowed respondents to express their views on anything that they thought might help the team draw up these guidelines. A total of 500 people returned their completed forms – a very high response rate for this type of exercise.
  • A Whitchurch Design website and forum (C), in which Internet users could ask questions and give their opinions about planning issues related to this design statement and also about specific planning applications. The website itself reported on progress on the design statement and gave users the chance to download design statement project documents.
  • A Whitchurch Design Day (D) exhibit held at the Parish Hall on March 8, 2003, displaying maps, photographs and draft guidelines. Visitors were asked to complete a buildings questionnaire and also to put their opinions on these exhibits onto yellow sticky notes on the exhibits themselves. More than 150 residents dropped in during the day (E) and left more than 500 comments for the team to evaluate and use in drawing up this design statement. Children were asked to draw what they liked about Whitchurch (F).
  • Review panels, made up of a cross-section of volunteers who are residents of Whitchurch, who read a draft version of the statement and met to compile suggestions for improving its content and appearance. The Whitchurch Town council also sat as a review panel and made suggestions for improvements to the draft.

A draft of the statement was uploaded to the project website and publicised in the local press. In addition, printed copies of the draft were made available for viewing and comment at the Town Hall and at Whitchurch Library. From these comments some further revision of the statement was done, and the statement then submitted to the Basingstoke and Dean Borough Council, who approved it as supplementary planning guidance. An evidence file containing details of all the consultation with Whitchurch residents carried out during the preparation of this statement is available in theTownClerk’s office of the Whitchurch Town Council and can be accessed during normal opening hours.