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14/12/2017

What listening to the radio can tell us about supporters of housebuilding

A radio

Research tells us that supporters of new homes are more likely to listen to Radio 1 than Radio 2. This small insight can provide a platform for much better community engagement, insists Anna Sabine-Newlyn

It comes to us all at some point – the youthful exuberance of Radio 1 starts to sound like an insufferable din as the comfort of Radio 2 waits with open arms. But perhaps those robust enough to withstand Radio 1 hold the answer to a problem the housing industry struggles to solve. It turns out that Radio 1 listeners are far more likely to support housebuilding than their counterparts at Radio 2.

Over the years studies and polls have confirmed the existence of a ‘silent majority’ in favour of new homes. The issue for developers and councils has always been how to find and engage them. New research provides some clues.

Shelter, working with Meeting Place Communications, published a YouGov survey in 2015, showing that not only does this silent majority exist, it exists across every age group. 

The snag is that opponents of development are twice as likely to do something about their views as supporters. 

"For some reason this sophistication falls away in the run-up to a planning meeting"

Using the results alongside ACORN demographic data, we developed tools that can plot likely support and opposition to new homes by postcode. You can work out where likely supporters live, and get a good idea of the issues likely to motivate them. These vary hugely from one area to another.

Last November, Engagement 2017, the first industry conference looking at how to carry out good public engagement, launched a second level of research, sponsored by Redrow & L&Q, which delves into the best way to engage potential supporters. 

It showed us that supporters of homes are more likely than opponents to consume news through the web than traditional channels such as newspapers or TV. Billboard advertising is more effective at reaching supporters over opponents than newspaper adverts, and the tone of communication is key: messages that seem to be telling people what to do will be less well received by opponents of housebuilding and may well entrench their views. And, yes, if you’re listening to Jeremy Vine at lunchtime on Radio 2, you’re more likely to be a NIMBY than if you’re bopping away to Radio 1.

The building industry is in some respects incredibly sophisticated – using complex demographic tools to decide where and what mix of housing to develop, and to help target customers for new homes. But for some reason this sophistication falls away in the run-up to a planning committee; we still carry out lazy planning consultations that enrage opponents while failing to engage the supportive majority.

The tools exist for developers and councils to make much better choices about how they engage. The sooner they decide to use those tools to engage the Radio 1 listeners, the better for everyone.

Anna Sabine-Newlyn is chief executive of Meeting Place Communications

Image | iStock

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