Road improvement scheme consultation: Good practice

This resource aims to provide an overview of good practice for consultation on road improvement schemes for all civil engineers and other built environment professionals.

Work underway on the Barnstaple Western Bypass scheme. Consulting with stakeholders at an early stage is a vital component of stakeholder engagement.
Work underway on the Barnstaple Western Bypass scheme. Consulting with stakeholders at an early stage is a vital component of stakeholder engagement.

This information is based upon procedures used in England, but there are lessons and resources used in this overview, which could be applied internationally.

Why consult?

For road improvement schemes, public consultation is strictly an optional, non-statutory process aimed at informing stakeholders and the general public about the scheme and seeking their views This is a best practice two-way process with success dependent on both the quality of the presentation of the proposals and the adequacy of feedback response

Consultation good practice principles and engagement standards

The UK Government has an established code of practice for consultation. Primarily, this is used for when Government consults with stakeholders on changes to policy or practice, but the seven criteria offered are useful principles, which could be used by the consulting authority for a road improvement scheme:

  • When to consult – Formal consultation should take place at a stage when there is scope to influence the policy outcome
  • Duration of consultation exercises – Consultations should normally last for at least 12 weeks with consideration given to longer timescales where feasible and sensible
  • Clarity of scope and impact – Consultation documents should be clear about the consultation process, what is being proposed, the scope to influence and the expected cost and benefits of the proposals.
  • Accessibility of consultation exercises – Consultation exercises should be designed to be accessible to, and clearly targeted at those people the exercise is intended to reach.
  • The burden of consultation – Keeping the burden of consultation to a minimum is essential if consultations are to be effective and if consultees' buy-in to the process is to be obtained.
  • Responsiveness of consultation exercises – Consultation responses should be analysed carefully and clear feedback should be provided to participants following the consultation
  • Capacity to consult – Officials running consultations should seek guidance in how to run an effective consultation exercise and share what they have learned from the experience

Consultation and engagement standards

The Consultation Institute publishes for sale, guidance on good practice for all involved in the consultation process called the Art of Consultation.

Aside from this publication, the Consultation Institute also recommend six standards of engagement:

  • Keeping promises - Organisations should use their best endeavours to ensure that all implementation-related commitments made during a consultation be honoured, and that in the event that they cannot, an appropriate mechanism is created or used to discuss alternatives with key stakeholders
  • Communicate progress – A lack of information fuels fear, uncertainty and doubt, so implementers must communicate clearly and honestly about all relevant aspects of post evaluation developments. Stakeholders should be able to identify easily who to contact for valid information about implementation.
  • Maintain contact - Organisers should compile and continuously update details of all individuals and groups affected by implementation; it should include those that took part in the previous consultation. They should offer them a mode of staying in contact with the project and being informed of developments.
  • Machinery for dialogue – There must be appropriate and adequate arrangements for implementers and affected stakeholders to identify and address issues of common interest with a view to minimising impacts and resolving problems. On occasions it may be desirable to ensure an independent element in the selected machinery.
  • Updated impacts Organisations should monitor the impacts of implementation on a continuous basis, paying particular attention to individuals and groups falling within the equalities categories. Where impacts change, they have a responsibility to have 'due regard' of the consequences and take steps to mitigate wherever practicable.
  • Measure stakeholder perceptions - Implementers need to know what affected people and groups think about what's happening. Perception monitoring needs to be undertaken using techniques that are appropriate for the working environment, and ideally, implementers should publish transparent feedback on what has been said by those affected

Useful resources

ICE Books

External resources

Highways England produces standards and documentation relating to the design, construction and maintenance of highways. Documents are available free online, including:

  • The Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) contains information about current standards, advice notes and other published documents relating to the design, assessment and operation of trunk roads, including motorways. The DMRB has been prepared for trunk roads and motorways. The basis of use of these documents by local highways authorities is given in the DMRB GD 1/08. Check with your local highway authority for their policy on this matter. The DMRB was introduced in 1992 in England and Wales, and following that in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Some standards and specifications have annexes specific to each devolved administration. You should contact the relevant devolved authority directly for guidance.
  • The Manual of Contract Documents for Highway Works contains the primary documents required for the preparation of contracts for trunk road works. It consists of several parts, including the administrative procedures for its use, the specification for highway works and the corresponding method measurements.
  • Interim Advice Notes (IANs) issued by Highways England contain specific guidance, which should only be used in connection with works on motorways and trunk roads in England, subject to any specific implementation instructions contained within an IAN. IANs are not part of the DMRB and the MCHW but must be read in conjunction. They may incorporate amendments or additions to documents in these manuals.
  • Eurocodes - As a public body, Highways England expresses its requirements for the design and modification of existing structures (including geotechnical works) in terms of Eurocodes. Highways England's technical experts were involved in the drafting of the Eurocodes and the National Annexes.
  • The Network Management Manual (NMM) provides mandatory requirements, guidance and advice for the management of maintenance of the trunk road network.
  • The performance requirements for routine and winter service activities on the trunk road network are included in the Routine and Winter Service Code.
  • The Traffic Management and Maintenance Manual, published January 2013, set out requirements for the management and maintenance of traffic technology systems.

Further information related to standards for highways is also available on the Standards for Highways online resource webpage.

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