YOUR VIEWS COUNT – Consultation
A member of the public indicated that he had been asked to voice a concern regarding the
anonymity of respondents to the Neighbourhood Plan consultation.
I hope that the following explanation of the methods adopted will reassure residents of the Parish that the identities of respondents are confidential and protected and that further they can have confidence that the Neighbourhood Plan accurately reflects the views of the residents of the Parish, who elected to take part.
It is important to understand that any consultation needs to be able to demonstrate its legitimacy and to pass the scrutiny of the district council and Planning Inspectorate.
In order to reach as many people within the parish as possible, a publicity drive was initiated to raise awareness of and encourage people to take part in the consultation. Notices were placed in the Parish News and Village Life. Postcards were hand delivered throughout the parish, posters distributed and information made available on the website. A questionnaire was designed to prompt responses giving the opportunity to write additional comments/ideas, based on the various subjects which may or may not be important to people for inclusion within the Neighbourhood Plan. This followed on from the previous consultations.
Three methods were adopted to give residents the opportunity to be able to respond and give their views.
1. Public open days held in both villages , with displays, information and questionnaires ready to be filled in, together with comments boxes for additional communication. These were set in a friendly informative environment with offerings of tea, coffee and cakes.
2. Mailing of questionnaires with freepost reply envelopes to all residential addresses in the Parish.
3. Internet forms via the website. These could either be filled in online or downloaded for completion on paper.
In order to prevent multiple responses by individuals, the questionnaires were given a unique number, one per address (adding a/b/c etc to identify and allow for more than one individual living at the address to be able to participate). The mail shot was undertaken by the chairman of the Neighbourhood Plan Committee who is also a Parish Councillor.
The open electoral list and a list of residential addresses were provided by SHDC for the mailing.
The deadline for completed questionnaires to be submitted was extended by 6 weeks with a reminder mailing being sent out to encourage responses.
Once the questionnaires were collected, three members of the committee (not those involved with mailing) entered all of the data, including comments, onto an excel spreadsheet.
Names, addresses and email addresses were not entered into the spreadsheet.
Individual questionnaires were instead allocated a unique anonymisation number – different from the number written on each questionnaire. A key tracing the questionnaire number to the spreadsheet anonymisation number was handwritten to allow for audit of the process.
Only two copies exist, one held by the chairman of the HNP steering group and the other held by another member of the Neighbourhood Plan committee who is also a Parish Councillor.
The excel spreadsheet has therefore been anonymised in such a way that the data collected is not able to be identified by anybody who will then be working on the information contained within it. This will enable the data to be examined without any knowledge of its source.
However there is a method by which all the recording can be verified and checked to be genuine reflecting the questionnaires filled in and comments supplied.
It is extremely important that the data on which the Neighbourhood Plan is compiled from is information gathered from the parish and residents within it and who wish to contribute. Although ideas and opinions offered by people outside the Parish can be valuable, it is important to be able to distinguish them from those of Parish residents.
Unfortunately completely anonymous forms could be bogus or multiples from one or two sources and be designed to influence the plan artificially and not a representation of the parish, therefore anonymous submissions have been recorded separately along with submissions from people who gave their addresses as outside the Parish.
Information will only be published in an anonymised form and nothing will be attributed to any individual/s.