Client name:

Bloor Homes, Congleton

Date of work:

2014-15

Brief/Issue:

Bloor Homes appointed Lexington to provide strategic advice in respect of a political and stakeholder communications programme in support of its application for over 200 new homes on an unallocated greenfield site in Congleton, Cheshire. The application was to be considered by Cheshire East Council, a Local Authority which had seen ongoing political turmoil surrounding its Local Plan and the delivery of new homes. Lexington was brought onto the project by Bloor Homes to help steer the proposals through the application process and ultimately help the client to achieve planning consent.

Lexcomm’s approach:

To promote this planning application to influential stakeholders, Lexington devised a multi-faceted communications programme. The initial activity was centred on an extensive stakeholder mapping exercise, which then influenced a political contact programme of briefings with key local members.

Once the political climate in which the application was to be determined was established, Lexington sought to engage with community stakeholders that would have an interest in or be affected by the proposals. Primarily, this was facilitated through an online consultation exercise, whereby residents were informed of the plans through a leaflet drop and via the local press, and a project website was established where the plans were available to view and people were provided with the opportunity to offer their feedback on the scheme. During the consultation, Bloor Homes also developed a working relationship with one of the primary schools in the area, with discussions held on the potential delivery of playing fields for the school as part of a community contribution and Lexington coordinated a business networking event where local firms could find out more about Bloor Homes’ plans and the associated economic benefits.

The other significant focus of Lexington’s efforts was local people who would be supportive of the delivery of new homes in the town, in particular those people struggling with the cost of rent, first time buyers, or families unable to find suitable housing options in the town. These groups of people, for varying reasons, do not often engage in the planning process, but have much to gain from the delivery of new homes, thus Lexington devised a strategy to identify potential supporters and mobilise them to advocate the benefits of the scheme on Bloor Homes’ behalf. This community support took a variety of forms, including individual representations sent to the Council direct, lobbying of local ward members by community stakeholders and the recording of video messages that were then shown to members of the Strategic Planning Board at Cheshire East Council.

Outcome:

Using our political expertise and campaigning experience, Lexington successfully encouraged 44 individuals to write personalised letters to Cheshire East Council, explaining exactly why they believed that new homes were needed in the area. A further compilation of video voxpops was also secured and shown during the relevant planning committee to demonstrate the community support for the application. This positive message, combined with managed political stakeholder relations, resulted in the application being viewed favourably and ultimately achieving planning consent at committee, avoiding the need for a costly appeal.