Oxford is a notoriously difficult city in which to secure planning permission, and in recent years proposals for student accommodation have been particularly contentious. When Frontier Estates drew up plans for a new development in Headington, they knew it would face local opposition, and called on PLMR to run a proactive stakeholder engagement programme to promote the benefits of the scheme, and counter objections.
Frontier’s proposals were for a contemporary building providing over 160 student bedrooms and four residential dwellings to replace the existing homes on the site. The location was prominent, on the corner of of the main road through Headington and a quiet residential street. Importantly, it was ideally located within five minutes’ walk of Oxford Brookes’ Headington campus.
Local opposition grew rapidly to this five-storey scheme, with homeowners, the neighbouring school and an adjacent nursing home registering objections. The objectors secured the backing of their Ward Members and the local press, so it was vital that our client could demonstrate both the clear need for the proposed development, and evidence support to counter the opposition. PLMR was brought on-board to turn the tables on the opposition campaign.
PLMR prepared a stakeholder engagement campaign designed specifically to tackle the substantial local opposition to these proposals. In addition to the standard consultation activities – public exhibitions, politician briefings and media liaison – we sought to provide incontrovertible evidence of local support for the scheme. By deploying a team on the ground to target stakeholders who would directly benefit from the proposals – particularly students, local businesses and other beneficiaries – we secured over 250 letters of support, and over 800 signatories to three strategically timed petitions. The planning officer for the application said she had never seen so much support.
Briefing materials were sent to all key political stakeholders, highlighting both the level of support and the key benefits the development would bring – helping to tackle a housing crisis that has seen Oxford outstripping London as the most unaffordable city in the UK.
Despite the local area committee opposing the application, the Council’s full Planning Review Committee voted to grant permission in January 2016. An agreement has been signed with Oxford Brookes to make full use of the new student accommodation building.
To find out how PLMR can help you secure planning permission for your project, please call David Madden or Rebecca Wakefield on 0207 622 9529 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.