Case Study: Mixed-use redevelopment, Vale of White Horse District Council

Background

Our client was seeking to replace a tired shopping precinct in Botley just outside Oxford, providing new retail space, apartments, student rooms, a hotel, new community centre, church and library.

Challenge

A previous application for the site attracted more than 1,000 objections and was unanimously refused at planning committee in 2014.  The group that led the opposition remained active in the community and based much of its campaign on opposition to student accommodation in Botley.  All of Botley’s elected representatives opposed the 2014 scheme.

Solution

  • We undertook a comprehensive political and community survey, which concluded that community buy-in was essential to building support for a new application. Our survey showed that political stakeholders would only positively consider the application if a community role in the plan-making process could be demonstrated.
  • We designed and implemented a comprehensive programme of community engagement. By emphasising our client’s commitment to meaningful engagement, and showing that the consultation would be transparent, we secured the participation of Botley’s elected representatives and the opposition group.
  • Their participation enabled us to deliver a successful consultation programme, which included the setting up of a Community Liaison Group and the holding of series of community workshops. This consultation enabled us to undertake community engagement at each stage of the plan-making process, and to demonstrate how changes to the scheme, including a reduction in student rooms, were the result of consultation feedback.
  • The consultation programme concluded with a two-day public exhibition in December 2015. Feedback from the exhibition showed that a clear majority of respondents welcomed changes to the scheme as a result of the consultation.
  • We kept the media updated on the emerging proposals, securing positive coverage of changes to the scheme resulting from the consultation.
  • We highlighted the community participation, positive public exhibition feedback and the positive media coverage to the Council leadership.

Result

Vale of White Horse District Council approved the application by 8 votes to 3 in June 2016. At the Planning Committee meeting objectors and Committee members commended the quality of the consultation undertaken.

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