Definition – A hard-to-reach group is a group within society that is typically under-represented in the planning process or has limited capacity for involvement. These groups may include ethnic or language minorities, disabled people, young people, the elderly, people with low literacy levels, those who are uninterested in civic affairs and people who simply don’t think their participation will make a difference. In some cases, there may be overlaps between these groups meaning some stakeholders have more than one disadvantage which needs to be accounted for when creating opportunities for their participation (see also equity). Conversely, there are groups of stakeholders which are disproportionately easy to reach. These are groups which are eager to participate and which tend to have a louder voice in group discussions.
Relevance to SUMP – To correct the balance of citizen participation, it is necessary to make greater efforts to hear the views of hard to reach people and groups. The tailoring of communication and activities for each specific audience is important, as is the range of involvement methods offered. These should include participation formats which ensure the involvement of hard-to-reach groups – and accept that they may involve greater time and resource requirements for the authority leading SUMP preparation. For example, discussions on a one-on-one or small group basis can be developed to assure representation. Organisations which represent the interests of these groups can also provide valuable insights into how to engage such citizens.
Source: RTPI, 2006