PRCA Awards Finalists!

Chelgate Local’s work for Redrow Homes South East on a project in Maidstone, Kent, was a finalist in the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) awards in December.

Springfield Mill was shortlisted in the PRCA Planning Project of the Year category recognising Chelgate Local’s political and community engagement role with the project.

David Banfield, planning director for Redrow Homes, commented: “Sometimes it is difficult to see the value of political and community engagement being carried out by a specialist consultancy, however with Chelgate that value is clear, measurable and has proved vital to gaining consent”.

The Mill was a famous former paper factory in Maidstone town centre dating back from over 200 years. It was the birthplace of machine-led steam-powered paper production. Built in around 1806, the site consists of many existing factory buildings of varying architecture, some listed, and a mill pond. The 6.5ha site borders the River Medway in the centre of Maidstone. Redrow recognised the sensitivities of the heritage of the site and wanted to fully engage with the local community to bring forward proposals which were fitting and appropriate, and so appointed Chelgate Local.

The quality of the local and political engagement was recognised by the ward councillor. Cllr Tony Harwood wrote to “commend the exemplar community outreach and engagement undertaken by Redrow in relation to their re-development of the historic Springfield Mill in Maidstone.

“Proactive public engagement, including a presentation and stand at busy Fremlin Walk shopping centre on a Saturday, leaflet and letter drops and numerous site meetings, involving both Councillors and professional officers, were also a defining feature of the planning process.

“Redrow’s openness to local input right from the master-planning stage facilitated the evolution of a high quality scheme which protected all of the finest historic and natural features of the site. Indeed, Redrow, residents and local councillors made common cause on many architectural, environmental sustainability and landscape elements of the scheme – sometimes in opposition to professional planner advice in relation to density and the central importance of renewable energy generation, for example.”

The awards dinner took place in December and Chelgate Local did not win the category.