Consultation for major regeneration of NHS infrastructure in Stoke

Freshwater was commissioned by University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM) NHS Trust to deliver a programme of proactive communications and engagement activity for a major regeneration project.



engagement website visits during consultation


peak engagement website visits in one day


planning application

UHNM NHS Trust is currently undertaking a transformation programme known as Project STAR, designed to provide strategic transformation for the NHS and regeneration for the city of Stoke. The programme began in 2014 when the Trust secured outline planning permission for the demolition of dilapidated buildings on its disused Royal Infirmary site and the development of up to 236 new homes or community services in its place. To replace the car parking provided at the Royal Infirmary, UHNM acquired a new local site and submitted plans to develop a multi-storey staff car park there, in a bid to expand and improve its health services.

The Trust asked Freshwater to undertake proactive community engagement throughout the Royal Infirmary’s demolition to keep local residents up to date on works and to raise awareness of Project STAR’s wider ambitions. We were also asked to deliver a pre-application consultation and engagement programme to support the Trust’s proposals to build a new staff car park.

Freshwater began by developing the narrative and key messages for Project STAR, and a set of FAQs for the proposed demolition work. After creating a comprehensive stakeholder matrix, a working community communications group – comprising of resident association chairs and local councillors – was founded. Members were key for disseminating information into their local communities and enabling direct contact with residents.

Freshwater designed and developed an anchor engagement microsite which hosted information, presentations, videos, and timelines. The site allowed stakeholders to submit a question and receive a timely response from the dedicated Project STAR email address. Newsletters, stakeholder notifications, and social media updates were also provided throughout the demolition period.

The consultation for a new car park at Grindley Hill Court offered stakeholders several ways to make their views known, including an online feedback form on the engagement website, virtual town hall meetings, and a dedicated project inbox. The consultation was advertised using hard-copy newsletters delivered by local councillors, social media posts, community page advertisements, stakeholder briefings, resident association newsletters and local media.

Engagement with the community continued following the close of consultation, with Freshwater co-ordinating both virtual briefings and site visits for local residents and key stakeholders, in addition to our work monitoring traditional and social media as well as developing press releases.

By successfully sparking dialogue with key community leaders, who continue to meet with Project STAR representatives monthly since its inception, the Trust’s programme of demolition has been completed successfully, much to the appreciation of local people who are keen to free up the land for much-needed housing. Key stakeholders including local councillors have also praised the Trust’s proactive approach to engagement and continue to support the work being implemented by Project STAR.

The approach to digital engagement has also been successful, with the engagement microsite seeing more than 8,000 visits, with a peak of 784 visits in one day during the heigh of demolition.

Following good community support, Freshwater was able to produce a strong pre-application consultation report to support UHNM’s planning submission for a new car park to Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which will enable the Trust to develop further its health infrastructure and achieve the mission set out by Project STAR.


John Underwood

Executive Director
029 20 30 40 50


University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM) NHS Trust

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