Staff Spotlight with Lucy Ross-Millar, Account Manager - Cratus Communities 2

Staff Spotlight with Vanisha Solanki, Account Manager – Cratus Planning

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Vanisha SolankiTell us a bit about your background

I started off as an Intern in the industry working for a communications agency. I worked my way up to working and leading on the day to day engagement on a number of high profile projects including some of the biggest developments in Enfield, Barking and Dagenham and across London.

In 2018, I was elected a Councillor in the London Borough of Redbridge. I gained extensive understanding of the planning process and importance of consultation in my time as a member of the Planning Committee. I am passionate about making sure local communities, and residents are put at the heart of the planning process and ensuring we are building connections from the outset.

What one thing are you most proud of?

I think it is difficult to pinpoint one thing, as there are a number of things. I have really enjoyed different ways of involving residents, whether it be undertaking art competitions with school children to put on the hoardings outside the Whiteley development in Westminster and holding focus group sessions with students from a music academy to inform proposals. I am proud of the diverse range of consultation methods that are available to us.

In my time in the industry I have held and chaired a female led roundtable with Leaders of Councils and London Assembly Members to discuss the London Plan and the future of development and really hope to add to this work.

Finally there are some high profile projects that I have worked on, but I have really enjoyed leading on the day to day engagement for 3,500+ homes and facilities at the former Stamping Plant Site in Barking and Dagenham,

How will you be supporting clients at Cratus?

I joined Cratus as an Account Manager on the Planning team. I am responsible for community engagement, and supporting the engagement across a number of schemes. I support the Planning team by engaging with local residents, amenity groups and businesses. As I said previously it is important to put people at the heart of planning, so understanding what the concerns, issues raised are and looking at how we can work better together with these groups.

I will be supporting clients to understand the importance of community engagement and ensure we build relationships between the project team and residents and create high quality communication material.

What do you think are the biggest challenges coming up in the planning sector?

There are a number of challenges coming up in the planning sector especially since the pandemic. With the increase in construction costs, material shortages it will be difficult for a lot of developers to build out their planning permissions. However this surprisingly has not seen a shortage in the number of planning applications being submitted to local authorities. There is also concern about viability and how viable a lot of the developments will be. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of years.

What’s your top tip for developers looking to better engage with local authorities?

My top tips for developers looking to better engage with local authorities will always be being honest. It is integral that developers are honest about what they can deliver, and what the constraints are. It is also important for developers to actively engage with the local communities in a timely manner and ensure that consultation is not just a tick box exercise but goes far deeper than that.

 

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