Benson Elliot – Vicarage Field shopping centre
Consent for a major town centre redevelopment
Context and Objectives
Benson Elliot acquired the 5.2 acre Vicarage Field site in 2015. Currently operating as a shopping centre, it is an extremely prominent site in the town centre. The scheme itself is ambitious and potentially transformational for the borough – rising to 36 storeys and second only to the Barking Riverside regeneration in scale. When completed, the proposals will deliver around 850 homes, up to 25,650 sqm of retail space, new leisure facilities including a cinema and music venue, a 150 room hotel, a three-form primary school, office space and modern healthcare facilities.
The LCA Role
LCA has worked with Benson Elliot for a number of years and was brought on board in 2015 to deliver the community consultation, communications and stakeholder engagement programme. This included organising previews for stakeholders, exhibitions, roadshow events, a five-week pop-up display and various presentations to local forums and groups. Meetings were regularly held with the Council’s leadership, local MP and cabinet members to ensure they were fully briefed and ‘bought-into’ the Vicarage Field vision.
The proposal received a positive recommendation to the planning committee and was approved by a strong vote of 11-1 despite some sensitivities around heritage and affordable housing. Over 1,000 people attended the consultation and around 75% were in support of the scheme. At committee, an equal number of supporter and objector letters were received by the council – a significant achievement for such a large development. LCA also managed the PR for the project and acted as a 24 hour press office. A close relationship with the local press and Borough’s communications department also ensured the scheme was covered positively at key milestones of the planning programme.