It’s worth remembering that, in the early days of the pandemic, some local authorities were asked by residents’ groups to delay their consideration of forthcoming applications and wait until members of the public could participate in person at a planning committee meeting. The argument was that not doing so would disadvantage people who did not have access to the internet. In the year since then, necessity has been the mother of invention as councils, councillors and the people they represent have all adapted to a new, online way of working.

Redwood, too, has made innovative use of technology to continue engaging communities throughout the pandemic and playing our part in keeping regeneration programmes moving. Through virtual exhibitions, online webinars and polling and interactive websites as well as old-fashioned phone conversations we have ensured that residents, businesses and other stakeholders can continue to review and comment on planning proposals or ask questions around construction programmes.

Since the first lockdown in March 2020, we have delivered consultation and engagement programmes for ten major mixed-use schemes and transformation projects across the country.

In this time, our team has:

  • Reached out to over 50,000 people through hybrid digital/remote engagement
  • Engaged with stakeholders in towns and cities across the country, from residents to local businesses and elected representatives
  • Hosted over 20 online discussions and webinars

The pandemic has changed how we communicate with each other. The fundamentals that make up good consultation and stakeholder engagement have not changed.

Our industry still needs to create the conditions – both in-person and online – where people have the time and space they need to understand what is proposed for their community and offer the chance to influence that change. When lockdown is finally lifted we will all emerge more technically adept than we were in March 2020, but we will also be more conscious than ever that things work much better when people talk, listen to each other and work together.

Following major consultation programmes, we are celebrating a number of recent successful planning consents in:

Station Hill, Reading (Lincoln MGT)

In the past year, we have helped our client, Lincoln MGT, to deliver planning for Phases 2 and 3 of its game-changing Station Hill development in Reading – developing the team’s relationships with local stakeholders in the run-up to the all-important Planning Committee in January this year. With the amendments to the previously-consented Phase 1 also now approved by Reading Borough Council, works are set to start in earnest on this new gateway for Reading.

These phases will combine to deliver up to 1,200 new homes, office accommodation for approximately 8,000 people, 100,000 sq ft of lifestyle-led space for retail, cafes and restaurants and a new pedestrian link and activated public realm between the station and the town centre, becoming a new district and destination for Reading.

Leisure World, Southampton (Sovereign Centros)

Sovereign Centros’ proposals for the regeneration of the existing Leisure World site in Southampton received outline planning approval in March 2021. Alongside £250m in investment, a cinema, casino, leisure and wellbeing facilities, 650 new homes, new hotels, modern work space, high-quality public realm and over 1,000 new jobs, the scheme will also put in place important pedestrian link between Southampton central station and the waterfront.

This successful application represents the culmination of Redwood’s first entirely digital-led public consultation, devised in response to the original lockdown in 2020. From an innovative website that showcased the proposals and provided an opportunity for the city to leave feedback, to dozens of virtual stakeholder meetings and public webinars, we recorded some of our best-ever engagement stats across the two-week consultation period.

Harlequin Shopping Centre, Exeter (Curlew)

We supported our client, Curlew, in their ambition to redevelop the Harlequin Shopping Centre in Exeter. The scheme, which received planning in October 2020, will be the first of its kind in South West England and will deliver over 250 co-living rooms to support local housing need in the city centre, alongside a hotel, extensive place making, public realm improvements and a green wall.

Sustainability and accessibility are at the centre of this successful application and the entire development will be built to Passivhaus principles and will include a modern lightweight pedestrian bridge, with lift access, to connect the development to local traders at the Guildhall Centre.