The agency has appointed Four Communications account director Emma Waterfall as director of the new unit. She joins next month and will be responsible for developing the business ahead of a planned launch later this year.
The unit will include a trio of Bell Pottinger Public Affairs consultants with expertise in property PR - account director Chris Parr, senior consultant Laura Wentworth-Stanley and consultant George Parkinson.
Bell Pottinger Public Affairs chairman Peter Bingle will also play an active role in the new unit.
He said: 'Over the past two years planning work has become one of our major growth streams. We have ambitious plans, a tremendous list of existing property clients and an expectation that property and planning will become one of our largest sectors by the end of 2008.'
The move comes nine months after Bell Pottinger sister agency Good Relations was hit by the resignation of all but one of its property and planning division staff (PRWeek, 4 May 2007), who went on to establish a new PR and public affairs shop called Quatro, headed by director Rob Fellows.
With the new unit in place, Bell Pottinger plans to go head-to-head with Quatro, as well as with property specialists such as PPS Group, Green Issues and Camargue.
Bell Pottinger is also hoping to head off advances into property PR from other lobbying shops such as Four Communications and Lexington Communications.
Bell Pottinger Public Affairs was recently called in by Asda to help push through an expansion in the number of stores in London and the Thames Gateway (PRWeek, 25 January).