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CAP1616 says:

The accepted standard is that consultations should last for 12 weeks. Any major holidays should also be considered, allowing extra time where appropriate. However, the 12-week period is not set in stone. The CAA is prepared to exercise some flexibility and will consider a shorter period where the change sponsor presents a case based on:
  • The impact of the change
  • The audience map and impacted groups (especially seldom-heard people)
  • Factors outside the change sponsor’s control, such as legal constraints
  • Technical or operational constraints.

Planning for the consultation

As CAP1616 states, a consultation can run up to 12 weeks, and there is flexibility depending on the proposal, but a rationale must be provided to the CAA as part of the consultation strategy. This section looks at how change sponsors can fully plan for the consultation, including the pre and post periods as well as the implementation.

As already set out in the previous sections of this toolkit, Step 3A calls for change sponsors to produce a consultation strategy that outlines which audiences are likely to be impacted by proposals, what communication approach(s) will be adopted to engage these groups, and how the materials will be developed to ensure a well-planned and accessible consultation is delivered.

This section will cover how to develop an effective project plan for the consultation and manage each stage of the process.

It is good practice to develop a project plan as part of the consultation planning process which incorporates all the stages and activities to be delivered as part of Stage 3. A project plan is for internal use and would not need to be submitted to the CAA. 

You may want to consider:

  • the consultation planning process in Step 3A
  • the live consultation taking place during Step 3C
  • the independent analysis and reporting that will be undertaken as part of Step 3D.

By setting out all the actions that need to be delivered throughout Stage 3, change sponsors can ensure that they stick to their consultation mandate, stay on track and hit their milestones and deliver an effective consultation.

As with any project plan, the consultation plan should have some flexibility built into it so that change sponsors can adjust the approach should any new information or issues emerge during the timelines.

As set out in CAP1616 change sponsors should take the time to periodically review the progress achieved against the original plan. As part of this you could assess whether the consultation is achieving the objectives that were originally proposed [see mandate] and make adjustments accordingly.

Building review points into the project plan gives change sponsors an opportunity to reflect on progress, to consider whether any new risks may have emerged (and what mitigation might need to be adopted to address them) and to understand which of the dialogue methods are successfully engaging which audiences and make amendments if necessary.

What you will gain:

The aim of this Length workstream is to enable change sponsors to:
  • Prepare a project plan that considers all the key stages and activities that need to be completed as part of the Stage 3 process, including how to assess the risks to the consultation
  • Consider when is appropriate to build review points into the consultation to ensure objectives are being met, risks are being mitigated and that communication methods are successful in engaging with the audience.

You will consider:

  • How to prepare a project plan that includes and considers all of the stages and activities that need to be delivered pre-, during and post-consultation
  • How to identify the risks to the consultation and how to develop a strategy for mitigation
  • How to undertake a mid-point and closing review to ensure that the consultation is on track
  • How to identify any gaps in the feedback received and when to consider carrying out top-up engagement