Generics – Planning

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Corporate Communications Director, Scientific Generics

Communicating a highly sensitive planning application within the Green Belt


Generics, the Cambridge high-tech innovations company, later known as Sagentia, experienced a period of rapid growth during the 1990s and needed to expand the office and R&D accommodation at their Harston Mill site. The proposed development within the Green Belt was highly sensitive, particularly within the village of Harston itself, and local planning policy meant that the company faced difficulties in obtaining permission to go ahead with the extensions.




Copywriting, Design and print management, Event management, Media Relations, Planning and strategy, Public affairs


  • To present the proposed development clearly and sensitively to the village of Harston
  • To explain the likely impact on the village and the measures taken by the company to minimise that impact
  • To arrange and run public meetings to discuss the development
  • To prepare information in support of the planning application


….was to ensure Harston residents knew that they were a valued part of the consultation and that their responses as members of the village community would be listened to, discussed, and taken seriously. The preferred PR route to reach individual households was via an illustrated leaflet, with an accompanying letter from the Generics CEO, explaining the plans very clearly. This was delivered by Royal Mail to Harston residents and neighbours. Villagers were invited to put their views directly to the company at public meetings. In addition, individual telephone interviews were arranged with senior managers, where requested by a resident.

Briefings were arranged for individual councillors. Local media were kept fully informed of plans and progress.


Planning permission was successfully obtained, with most of the village in support, but only after a public enquiry brought about by City Council opposition. During the extended period of time before permission ultimately was granted, Phillips Profile continued to update the local media on any developments, taking up a neutral reporting position to which the press in particular responded positively.


Image courtesy of Cowper Griffith Architects