Definition – Consultation is the act or process of formally requesting input and discussing a subject with a person or organisation.
Relevance to SUMP – Consultation is a core element of the SUMP approach to participation and integration. To achieve the SUMP objective of integration, the SUMP Guidelines advise that a high level of cooperation and consultation between the different levels of government and authorities is necessary. Consultation is typically also an integral component of a SUMP plan for stakeholder and citizen engagement, although it is important to understand some of its theoretical background. Arnstein’s (1969) “ladder of citizen participation” is a recognised means for grading participation initiatives. Arnstein defined citizen participation as a redistribution of power and developed an eight-rung ladder representing various participation levels, starting from “non-participation” at the lower rungs to “citizen power” at the top. The rungs are entitled: therapy, informing, consultation, placation, partnership, delegated power and citizen control. Within this theoretical framework, consultation is described as inviting citizens’ opinions, which can be a legitimate step towards full participation, but provides no assurance that citizens’ ideas and concerns will be taken into account. It is therefore necessary to consider how ideas brought forward by citizens will be taken into account in the planning process and decision making.
Source: Oxford Dictionaries (online); Arnstein, 1969