On Wednesday 25th February 2015 the members of Wokingham Planning Committee approved plans for 760 homes, a care home and a school at Matthewsgreen Farm, Emmbrook.
Cratus Communications began working for Bovis Homes and Gleeson Developments supporting their application in July 2014. From the beginning we focused on working closely with the community and councillors to change the debate locally from whether or not development is needed to what benefits the development could bring to the existing community.
It was quickly established that the timeline of the application was going to lead to a committee hearing within the ‘campaign period’ before the May 2015 local and general elections. With this in mind we set up a Community Liaison Group including the ward members, representatives from the two local resident associations and Wokingham Civic Society. This group, importantly chaired by one of the local ward members, enabled us to keep communication open throughout the project. This led to a level of trust and understanding that allowed genuine engagement between all parties.
During the committee debate two of the ward members (including one on the committee) praised the level of engagement between the developers and the community. Before moving to the vote the Chairman of the committee, Councillor Weeks, commented that there had clearly been a high level of engagement on this application and that often led to much better development.
The application was granted consent on a vote of 10-1.
Ben Sherreard, Director of Property for Cratus Communications said after the meeting:
“This has been a case study example of how genuine engagement, whilst often difficult to begin with, can lead to much more positive outcomes for developers down the road.
“The relationship we have built with the ward members and the resident associations in the area has led to a great development that will benefit the existing community. Thanks to the joint efforts of a community and a developer that genuinely listened we were able to change the debate and show that we were on the side of the community.
Significantly, this was an outline application. The relationships we have built during this project will help us to begin the detailed applications from a position of trust and cooperation with the local community which is obviously far better than the alternative.”