Engaging residents' groups in planning using focus groups

Katherine Brookfield*, Alan Bloodworth, John Mohan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Involving residents in decisions on the planning and design of the built environment can deliver numerous benefits, but soliciting their productive and meaningful engagement is not easy. There are various pitfalls to navigate and issues to address. This paper reflects on several of these by drawing on the experience of conducting focus groups with a variety of residents' groups where attitudes to environmental design were discussed. The paper considers issues around the process of identifying and selecting groups to engage with, barriers to group and individual participation in engagement exercises, and the process of opinion formation and evolution in a group setting (and the implications of this for the interpretation of focus group data). Interestingly, for some residents' groups, preferences for the design and development of the built environment appeared to be rather conservativewhile there was scepticism of the agenda and activities of local government and property developers. The paper considers what this might mean for efforts to involve these groups in consultation and engagement activities on planning and development matters. Overall, it is hoped that this paper will form a useful resource for those embarking on consultation and engagement activities, particularly those wishing to work with residents' groups or seeking to employ focus groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-74
Number of pages14
JournalProceedings of the ICE - Engineering Sustainability
Issue numberES2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • public policy
  • social impact
  • town and city planning


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