Members of Broadland District Council's Place Shaping Committee will be discussing this report tonight. It is the summary of response to the Rackheath Exemplar Brief Consultation carried out between 22 August and 29 October 2010.
The Council have had three months to produce this report and in their summary of responses they start off by saying:
"It is evident that the majority of local residents who responded to the consultation exercise are opposed to the exemplar project and to any future eco-community at Rackheath. However, it is also clear that only a small number of residents in Rackheath and surrounding villages completed the form and so it is difficult to assess to what degree the views expressed are representative of the community as a whole. In fact it can be argued that the lack of response to the consultation exercise demonstrates a degree of local ambivalence to the proposed exemplar project."
Well 87.6% opposed to the Exemplar seems pretty clear - even if you discount those received in 'batches' - the results show 75.3% do not support the scheme. The 90 forms which were returned and had 'only all or part of the final page completed' have been excluded from the analysis so the data has been analysed using only the 93 responses that BDC deemed valid.
Broadland District Council know that there is considerable local opposition to their proposals for both the proposed Exemplar scheme and their much loved vision for an eco-town (low carbon community - call it what you will). It seems that they are quite happy to to use low response rates to their advantage when they choose (such as the small sample on which the GNDP based their justification for proceeding with the Joint Core Strategy) but it will be interesting to hear how councillors respond to this report and what decision they reach.
The schedule of comments and proposed response set out in Appendix 3 is laughable as they still bandy about percentage figures when referring to the public consultation element to supposedly boost their arguments - we trust that if the Inspector is shown this appendix he is made aware of the full facts and the numbers involved.
We questioned the the use of this questionnaire when it was first produced and pointed out that best practice in questionnaire design had not been followed - best practice in terms of analysis does not seem to have been followed either just 'clever' manipulation of numbers. One can only assume that they needed the past three months to figure out ways of trying to present the results of this consultation as being meaningful. They state in their commentary that "Given the number of households within the project area, the response rate is low. Consultation on a draft brief has not been undertaken before and some people misunderstood the purpose, assuming that the scheme is further advanced than is the case". So respondents misunderstood did they? No - they gave their views on what had been presented to them.
Oh, one more thing - ambivalence? Just who are they kidding? The local community have had long enough to know not to trust consultations or, indeed, Broadland District Council.