Below we provide some useful information on new ways of working, as well as some tools you may find useful for this period to help you work differently.

Policy writing and evidence gathering

Policy writing and most evidence gathering for a neighbourhood plan is desk-based, so it is possible to work on these activities from home. You can share your work and findings with your group using the online tools to help you to continue to move forward.

Given that that there are still restrictions compared with what we were able to do before Covid-19 you may have to think differently about how you gather evidence. However, you could consider doing some of this online by using tools such as Google Street View or meeting in much smaller groups to undertake site visits outdoors, for example.

AECOM will continue to work on technical support packages, though they may contact you to notify you of any changes to the way they will be working.

Meetings

Government continues to recommend that where people can continue to meet digitally without face-to-face contact, they should continue to do so. Any physical meetings should be managed within the social distancing guidance. Please check the Government guidance to ensure that the type of meeting (and the setting) is appropriate and in line with restrictions at the time.

Community engagement

You may want to consider what consultation and engagement can be conducted online, including surveys and questionnaires. It is important, however, not to forget those people who do not have internet access – you can for example, still use phone or postal methods. You can also find some survey tools listed below.

In the updated planning guidance MHCLG have set out some guidance on public consultation in the context of social distancing.

Publicity

As lockdown restrictions have eased it is now possible to publicise the neighbourhood plan by leafletting. However, though this is now possible we would advise that you still exercise caution.

Digital Tools to help

Below are a few digital tools that you may find useful while you are social distancing. It is by no means exhaustive.

Meetings and communicating

Zoom – video conferencing that gives you the ability to see everyone in the meeting at the same time.

Microsoft Teams – video conferencing and online messaging service.
WhatsApp – mobile phone based text messaging, with a video call function for up to four phones.

Skype – video conferencing for phones and computers.

Surveys and Questionnaires

Survey Monkey – online survey tool with both free and paid features.

Google Forms – online survey tool which is synced with other Google services.
Type Form – similar to Survey Monkey.

Other tools

Google documents is free for all users with a Google account and you can work on documents (word/spreadsheets/photos) collaboratively whilst on different computers in different places.

Costs

Many of these tools can be used for free of charge, however some require subscription fees. Locality can fund subscriptions through grant.

Take care of yourselves and remember to continue to refer to government guidance and instruction as it is liable to change. Your health and the health of those in your communities is more important than anything else