How we helped tell a housing success story

James and Georgia Brand at home in Cranbrook with their children John and Robert

“I’m delighted with the new development that’s being built in xxx. It’s a huge success story which local people and partners can be proud of.”

How many times have you read – or written if you’re a comms person – something like that and really taken it in? Like ‘transformation’ or ‘ground-breaking’, such words can be used so often that they start to mean very little.*

Then there are projects like Cranbrook in Devon, where slogans don’t do justice to what’s happening on the ground. Based on the fringes of Exeter, when complete it will include around 6,000 homes, schools, a town centre and a host of other amenities and jobs.

After more than 20 years in gestation, building work started in 2011, and now more than 800 homes are lived in and the primary school which opened in 2012 has more than 300 kids. That this has happened in the face of the downturn is remarkable, and every time I visit I’m amazed at the progress being made.

To tell the story of what’s happening there, I’ve spoken to people who moved into Cranbrook recently as part of a case study we’ve created and helped set up an event for partners and stakeholders at the new community centre yesterday to show them first hand the contribution that housing can make to the economy of a local area.

The case study features James and Georgia Brand, who recently moved to Cranbrook from a one-bed flat in a tough part of Exeter, where they’d lived for nine years and had outgrown ages ago. The bigger, better house has made a huge difference to their busy lives; they say their kids are doing better and they’ve got their feet on the first rung of the housing ladder by owning part of one of the ‘shared ownership’ affordable homes with local provider DCH.

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They’re amongst many Devonians who are said to support the efforts to build the county’s first new settlement of this size since the Middle Ages! That’s quite a journey from more than 14,000 objections lodged against the concept during consultation on the proposals a few years back. Those who attended the joint event that we hosted with the National Housing Federation yesterday seemed to agree with that positive sentiment and there were some tweets from the event which showed this.  A lack of strong 3G signal would probably have resulted in more Twitter conversation I’m sure, but a selection of comments are below.

https://twitter.com/natfedJenny/status/535010714126409728

I also did a pretty terrible Vine post which doesn’t tell the story well at all, but I’m still learning the ropes on this. It’s also a challenge for people with serious messages to give in six seconds, but that’s another post for another day when I better understand what I’m doing!

Vine post

It’s been great to spend time to tell the story about how Cranbrook is making a difference and hear the positive comments from our peers when they visited. Getting out, seeing the site and showing people what’s happening, rather than telling them, has hopefully helped to build some more understanding and support for why this project matters so much. If nothing else, it puts the slogans into perspective.

* I worked for an editor years ago who banned ‘I’m delighted’ and ‘partnership’ from his papers, so this isn’t a recent thing!

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