Across the country local authorities are facing pressure from central government to build new homes. Housing can be a divisive topic though and a difficult one to get right.
The publication of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework earlier this month gave Liberal Democrats in the area a chance to scrutinise, and criticise, the plans put forward by the heavily Labour dominated councils and the Labour Metro Mayor.
The press release from Bury Liberal Democrats echoes much of the criticism of the plans and picks out specific elements that affect residents in the area. It does this whilst still accepting that house building in the borough is required.
At ALDC, we have put together a quick blog on single issue campaigns and this is an excellent starting point for campaigning on housing developments. Petitions are a particularly popular way of collecting support for your campaign and allow us to collect a list of people that we can build up a dialogue with as the campaign progresses. Public meetings and peaceful protests can provide an opportunity for media coverage and visual impact.
On housing specifically, there are some handy tips to follow whether you are opposing or supporting a new development:
- Be informed – Know the specific details of the plans and have a full understanding of the impact that they will have. Being able to answer residents’ questions clearly, and correctly, is key to your credibility.
- Be aware – You will of course form your own view on any proposals but you should be aware of how residents actually feel about the plans and any specific concerns that they may have. Don’t assume that there will be a shared view. This is a brilliant chance to talk to voters about something that they are directly affected by.
- Be practical – There is nothing wrong with stating your position. Trying to appease all sides often leads to all sides feeling let down. However, it is easy to leave yourself open to criticism if you are seen to be simply blocking or waving through plans without proper scrutiny or practical alternatives. Nobody can expect you to have a fully planned alternative scheme but it is good practice to have a set of specific points and sensible, practical alternative solutions.
Campaigns on housing developments can engage people who were previously not involved in local politics and can quickly unite those from different political persuasions behind a common cause. As a campaigner, one of your key roles here is signposting residents towards the ways that they can get involved. Whether it is signing your petition on the housing development so we can keep in touch about the campaign or hosting a letter writing party to help residents fill in the consultation, these issues provide a useful and effective way of engaging residents and allowing them to have their voice heard.
It is always worth looking at the party’s stated positions on housing when designing your campaign.