Cratus Communities

Building communities – the case for change

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Cratus Communities is quietly revolutionising and abolishing the traditional view of ‘faceless’ developers sweeping into town and ‘doing what they like’. Keeping residents at the heart of what we do means we have a role in mediating between the two different views, reaching solutions that are fair for everyone. While there is much talk about building communities there are few with the experience and expertise to truly achieve this.

This is where we come in.

Historically seen by some as a tick-box exercise, community engagement over the course of construction is becoming increasingly important to local authorities – and it is here to stay. With developers competing for land and councils deciding who they trust to take on complex schemes, the importance placed on how we communicate with and engage our communities is starting to change.

After the challenge of spending years trying to get planning permission, it can feel like once this is secured, the hard work with the community is done. But really it is just beginning!

It’s no secret that life next to a building site is difficult, to say the very least. From dust in the summer to mud in the winter, construction traffic following their sat navs and ‘ignoring’ carefully placed road signage – not to mention the times when things really go wrong – construction can be a source of serious frustration. Corporate reputational management should be a golden thread woven throughout the construction period. With the rise of social media and the ease with which people can connect with the press, reputational tremors have the potential to grow into serious earthquakes. Existing neighbours and stakeholders will be keen to ensure your development lives up to promises made through the planning process, while your customers will be hoping the finished product is a place they are proud to call home, and it is likely that your problem solving and communication abilities will be tested to the limit along the way!

This is why keeping residents informed about what we are doing is so important. Knowledge is power, and when people know the facts, they can begin to handle and process that information. The real problems come when people have no idea what is happening and in the absence of clear messaging, misinformation becomes king while the rumour mill reigns supreme.

Communication with existing residents has to be managed carefully and with tact. After all, they have chosen to stick around during the works – but they are unlikely to be welcoming it with open arms! Newsletters, emails, letter drops, leaflets, specially designed community websites, social media posts, drop-in sessions, one-to-ones over coffee – the options can go on forever, but choosing what to say, as well as when and how to say it can be tricky.

Bill Gates had a good point about information overload when he said that: “Being flooded with information doesn’t mean we have the right information or that we’re in touch with the right people.”

Having a named person in place to manage community liaison over the course of construction means that residents recognise that individual, while also going against the old ‘faceless developer’ moniker. This approach means that residents know exactly who to contact with any issues, ideas or questions, ensuring a clean and efficient process for reporting and escalation.

Our Director of Communities, Gemma Gallant’s experience of working in local government at a time when funding for community engagement was being dramatically cut has given her a passion for finding new ways of doing things alongside her obvious passion for community and for reaching good, fair solutions for everyone.

Of course, Gemma’s passion doesn’t stop when she goes home, where she has a lead role in organising the local village fete and helping to grow the thriving community garden, both initiatives aimed at bringing the whole community together.

Cratus is bringing back neighbourliness. From introducing new neighbours to organising events and initiatives that bring the whole community together, we are laying the groundwork for the areas where we are based to develop into strong, sustainable communities that gather together to share experiences and learning, and can cope with whatever challenges are thrown at them in the more distant future. For now though, we are setting up communities that can stand on their own two feet quicker than they ever would have without us. Communities that sell houses.

For more information, contact:

Gemma Gallant
Director of Communities
[email protected]

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020 7866 4050