Tuesday, 22 July 2008

What not to say at a client meeting


Your unit's evaluation has revealed well-preserved stratigraphy on the development site; there is a real possibility that the archaeological impact of the proposal will be enough for the application to be refused. So what should you say? Or more to the point, not say?

Well at least we managed to resolve the question of when the Town Ditch was finally filled in.

They don't care. It's not their job to care, and they don't. You're not there to sell archaeology; you're there to advise your clients. Even if you've spent the last ten years worrying about exactly this issue, now is not the time to say so. Tell you client, instead, that the evaluation has performed its function but has left them with a possible problem.

Perhaps you could get Professor Withington to comment?

Well, yes, if you want them to think that you don't know what you're doing or what you've found. Most developers will at some point have come across a local professor with no understanding of the planning process and an axe to grind (hydrology, bats, electromagnetism) and they will hardly jump for joy at the suggestion. It is in any case a bad move: the credibility of 'authorities' in a public forum may dissolve under astute questioning ("When did you last consult the SMR?" is a good one), and for all you know he has been writing mad letters to the council since the Thatcher era. Even if you do think he may have something to say, he should be YOUR advisor, not your clients. If he is advising your clients, what are they paying you for?

The archaeology is too precious: you'll have to re-think.

Sometimes you do have to say this. But under the present framework, it's up to the planners to say this, not you, most of the time. The judgement of whether preservation by record is an appropriate response is always a finely balanced one.

I'm sure you'll get permission

Don't say this unless you really are sure. Your clients are used to the vagaries of the planning process, and ill-advised certainty at this point brings potential liability (they may go around taking up options on leases on the basis that the development will be going ahead).

What you should say

Provide a forward plan: what's next? Meeting the case officer's a good place to start.
Look at contingency plans.
Suggest changes to design to minimise risk and cost.

Above all: be the advisor they want: be clear, well informed, judicial, and open.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

contingency plan is a must have in every presentation if not sometimes it saves your butt in further interrogations