As utility-scale solar projects go from strength to strength in the UK, Copper Consultancy has demonstrated continued excellence through Ecotricity’s Heckington Fen solar farm being accepted for examination.
Copper’s role ranged from delivering the project’s statutory consultation, to political and community insight, and most recently involved producing the consultation report that was submitted as part of the Development Consent Order (DCO) application.
This important milestone for Heckington Fen solar farm continues our 100% success rate for applications being accepted for examination by the Planning Inspectorate.
To find out more about our work in solar energy, read here.
Copper is a consciously specialist agency.
We live and breathe infrastructure and development, work on policy formation, support major projects, facilitate construction, and help major organisations build understanding of what they do.
Being specialist means that we are unlikely to become the biggest agency in the UK. But that doesn’t make us niche.
We’ve moved up nine places in PR Week’s latest ranking of communications agencies, and we are number six in the league table for growth in number of employees.
We have been growing fast, investing heavily in our brilliant team, and see a significant opportunity to continue to grow.
In recent years, Copper has made a firm commitment to support the transition to a net zero society, and a sustainable economy. Although we also support projects that help to rebalance the economy and enable more widespread access to essential infrastructure, the vast majority of our work is dedicated to enabling low carbon energy, supporting decarbonisation of industry, boosting active travel, and facilitating the change neeed to deliver these transitions.
That may look like pushing at an open door. The case for investment into establishing a cleaner, more sustainable, more nature rich way of life has been won…..right?
Opinion polls repeatedly show that belief in manmade climate change is almost universal. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t fervent debate about how we go about weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, and the changes that we will all experience as a result.
For our latest Attitudes report, Will the next general election be won or lost on climate change?, we surveyed 1,500 members of the public on their attitudes to net zero. The report found that the public supports policies to address climate change, but are deeply sceptical about how realistic efforts are; and remain concerned about how the net zero transition will impact them. In short, people want net zero, but are less convinced about who should pay for it, or that they want a windfarm or solar park in their ‘back-yard’. Progress towards carbon reduction and increased sustainability sparks heated discussion, debate and all too often opposition.
And that is where Copper comes in. We have spent 25 years talking to everyone from government ministers to local residents, about the need for change. We ensure that a wide range of views are taken onboard as projects are planned, and work to build common understanding.
The scale and pace of change is going to need to increase in the years ahead, if we are going to even come close to achieving net zero goals. There will be an ever increasing need for dialogue as individuals and communities grapple with what net zero means for them, and the role for Copper and companies like us, is going become ever more important.
But, just more talking, in an already noisy world isn’t necessarily going to help. We need to change how we speak, work harder to tell engaging and relatable stories, bring new groups of people into the conversation, and do better at listening.
To respond to this challenge, Copper has expanded our offering, bringing together a team of specialist content creators, writers, editors, designers, animators and digital communicators, to bring complex, technical and often challenging topics to life.
Despite being a specialist agency, as part of the RSK Group, we can offer the widest range of services from research, data insight and analysis, through communications strategy, stakeholder engagement, content creation and digital, and even cutting edge sustainable events.
We remain ambitious for the future and believe we can make a positive, and ever more significant, contribution to a more sustainable future.
You can also follow us on LinkedIn.
The Government has made its most significant intervention to-date on the direction of housebuilding in the UK, with Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove signalling that the 300,000 homes per year manifesto target is now an advisory goal.
Among the other key proposals, we will see the consideration for resident views playing a more influential role in the determining of planning applications.
The gravity of this change in direction should not be underappreciated. Three years since the publication of the Planning White Paper which aimed to radically improve the delivery of new homes, the Conservatives now promote policy designed to ‘give local authorities the power to stop new development’.
And what of the announcement?
The crux of this sees housing targets move from mandatory to advisory. Critically, local housing need will not need to be adhered to if the local authorities demonstrate reasonable constraints for achieving this.
The concerns of existing residents have been prioritised, with their views now determining how many homes are agreed to be built in their local authority. Equally so for aesthetic tastes of future homes, the introduction of local design codes and Street Votes will be guided by the opinions of existing residents. The latter allowing for ‘gentle densification’ through airspace development and upward extensions on properties. This policy attempts to weave together the need to increase domiciles, while avoiding the unproven criticism that more homes will lower existing homeowners property value.
In a bid to ensure local homes go to ‘local people’, council tax will be increased on empty homes. Gove has also signalled his intention to table an amendment at the Report Stage of the Bill for a registration scheme on short lets in England.
Local and Neighbourhood Plans
Local Plan amendments are the most positive element of Gove’s letter. The announcements are designed to reimbue local authorities with the energy to restart their Local Plan process without any penalty.
The most significant changes are the removal of presumption in favour of development and the consideration for areas that have overdelivered their historic targets. This is intended to ensure up to date local planning guidance, without the implication that unmanageable development will occur. The beneficial elements for local authorities include the removal of the rolling-five year land supply and 20 per cent buffer for those local authorities that have already delivered a sound Local Plan.
The localist drive is further evident in ending the ‘duty-to-cooperate’, potentially making housing policies of neighbouring authorities becoming even more indifferent to the realities of the local demographic geography.
Gove has offered a two year grace period for Local Plans to be revised to incorporate these amendments. To safeguard against ‘speculative development’ during this time, the period of available land being promoted will decrease from five to four years.
Neighbourhood Plans too will have their powers enhanced to include new protections, such as the doubling of the time period against developer appeals, increasing from two to five years.
Gove is unapologetic from his criticism of developers in the letter, who he perceives need to be held to further account. Additional measures targeting developers are populist in nature, with an added a financial penalty for slow build out and an increased fee for retrospective planning applications that breach planning law.
The most worrying element is the intention to allow local authorities to refuse planning, if they feel the developers character is poor. This arbitrary power potentially traps developers in a cycle where poor performance cannot be redeemed.
Encouraging developers to prioritise brownfield build out is a key component of the proposals. Local authorities will be allowed powers to set preferential Infrastructure Levy rates for brownfield over greenfield development. New protections against development will also be given to agricultural land used for food production.
What does this mean for the sector?
With residents now poised to have an even greater say in deciding the level of development in their communities, those in development sector will need to reach a much broader audience than previously. Far from relegating it, the need to foster grassroots advocacy has never been more crucial.
As witnessed as recently as during the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector has displayed a readiness and effectiveness at meeting new requirements to engagement. Now, faced with this more permanent challenge, community consultation will need to adapt and to innovate to meet it.
Nuclear energy, along with hydrogen, has been presented by the Conservative government as the solution to the UK’s energy crisis. The confirmation of funding to deliver the new Sizewell C power station is a welcome part of the Autumn financial package that places energy, along with infrastructure and innovation, at the heart of the Government’s priorities for the future.
In our new series, The Hardest Jobs in Net Zero, we explore the oxymorons of infrastructure – those roles that, on the surface, seem to be anything but sustainable.
Today, we speak to Jas Sidhu, president of the Nuclear Institute, to understand the role that nuclear energy can play in the drive to Net Zero by 2050.
“In terms of getting to Net Zero, the only viable option includes nuclear power,” begins Mr Sidhu “The consensus across major international institutions is that all low carbon technologies, including nuclear, will need to be deployed urgently and at scale in order to achieve Net Zero targets”.
Who leads who?
For Jas, the changing policy priorities of successive Governments has seen the initiative for nuclear development stall significantly.
“Nuclear energy generates between 15 – 20% of our nation’s electricity at the moment. This is scheduled to decrease because of the current fleet of gas cooled reactors reaching end of life. There’s a lot of talk, but it all needs investment, which the Government needs to facilitate asap.”
There is hope for the future, with organisations within the nuclear sector driving that change. The Nuclear Institute’s Young Generation Network (YGN) is a key part of driving that change.
“The YGN has been in existence for over 20 years and currently consists of approximately 1,250 members. The YGNs position paper, ‘Nuclear for Climate’ is a grassroots initiative gathering nuclear professionals with the goal of opening a dialogue with policymakers and the public about the necessity of including nuclear energy among the carbon-free solutions to climate change. Its vision is for a clean, sustainable and abundant low-carbon future for all. Our mission is to accelerate the ability of the world to achieve Net Zero by 2050, by driving collaboration between nuclear and renewable technology.”
Presently, the sector is developing new technologies, but is dependent upon the Government to take action to unlock further progress, similar to that which it has done for other industries.
“If you look at battery storage, British industries put forward a strong business case, which the Government supported because they understood it was in the national interest. That hasn’t happened at the same pace with nuclear investment. It cannot simply be left to market forces to deliver critical national infrastructure. The state needs to have a greater influence in facilitating the delivery of future nuclear technology. Serious investment is needed and although you may not see the results for 10 to 15 years, it is critical to undertake.”
Behavioural change is key to drive new skills and talent
Jas’s own journey into nuclear began from witnessing the industry’s greatest tragedy. As a sixth form student in April 1986, watching the disaster in Chernobyl, near Pripyat in Ukraine, unfold before him, Jas was as encouraged as he was abhorred by the tragedy, which propelled him on the path to studying nuclear engineering.
“I was at school – studying A-levels in maths, physics and music – and that one event inspired me to study nuclear engineering.”
Drawing from his own journey, Jas emphasises the need to encourage STEM take-up at schools as a path into nuclear engineering for the next generation.
“From a nuclear industry point of view, attracting youngsters to study STEM in the first place is one of our priorities. From that, we can facilitate a greater pool of talent coming into the nuclear industry.”
There is a danger that there will be a gap between the current generation of nuclear engineers and those of future generations of graduates. The risk, for Jas, is not simply for the future energy security of the UK, but the defence of the realm itself.
“We have 65,000 staff employed in civil nuclear industries and a further 20,000 in national defence. We have amazing talent but an ageing workforce that needs to be replaced by future generations of students coming to join the nuclear industry.”
For Jas, action needs to be taken early in the education cycle, broadening awareness and interest for nuclear technologies in the classroom. This necessitates the recruitment of teachers with the right expertise and enthusiasm for the sector.
“Getting teachers on message will be critical to ensuring it is made accessible to students. Including studies on the curriculum is not enough unless you have teachers who are buying into it as well – and it’s on the industry to ensure that happens”
Collaboration is critical
While interaction between partners in the sector is not uncommon, Jas admits that a shared approach towards addressing the challenges of the sector is needed.
“We often have discussions with partners, such as the National Nuclear Laboratory. Issues relating to recruitment, training and supply chains are all common . We all like talking to each other, but we are less good at broadcasting outside of the industry. This is partly because of the industry’s history, but this needs to change to reach a more public channel.”
What of the existing energy companies in the fossil fuel industry? Does collaboration occur there also?
“There is this perception that the pursuit of net zero will lead to mass redundancies in the fossil fuel workforce. However, we are open to employing scientific and engineering professionals in the nuclear industry, who started their careers in fossil fuels.”
Jas’ comments demonstrate the necessity for the nuclear industry to rebrand its image in public perception. The Chernobyl disaster, which propelled Jas on his trajectory towards a nuclear career, also casts a heavy shadow in the minds of people today. Along with Fukushima more recently, these incidents make a disproportionate impact on the image of the nuclear industry.
Nuclear energy is going to play a large part of the mixed renewable energy mix in future. Therefore, the present anxieties towards the perceived dangers of the industry need to be overcome.
It is critical for both the UK’s energy and defence security that this narrative can be reconstructed and delivered through a comprehensive and continued campaign. Without this, the opportunity to encourage greater emphasis in school curriculums and routes into jobs within the sector will not be achieved.
Find out more about Jas and the team’s efforts to achieve net zero here.
And stay tuned to Copper’s channels for more articles in our search for The Hardest Jobs in Net Zero.
The logistics sector is the backbone of the UK economy. It accounts for £55bn of the UK GDP, 1.7m jobs, and underpins how we function day-to-day, both in business and our everyday lives. But what does the public think about the sector and how do communities respond to large-scale logistics hubs?
Changes in shopping patterns alone have accelerated the growth of the logistics industry. COVID-19 shifted the onus onto online shopping, with more and more people abandoning district centre shopping in favour of ordering from their laptop or smartphone.
The likes of Amazon and other online retailers were the main beneficiaries, whilst supermarkets also adapted. In total, online sales grew by over 20% during the period of lockdowns between 2020 and 2021.
53 football pitches
To accommodate the growth in demand, more and more land is required for warehousing and logistics hubs. In fact, the equivalent of 53 football pitches is required across Europe to fulfil demand in the next few years.
However, it’s clear that our planning legislation has been slow to catch up. Local Plans are still very residential focused, with employment (or commercial) land sometimes counted as an after-thought when local authorities draw up their development frameworks. As well as this, public attitudes towards logistics development does not always align with the growth in demand.
Economic gains drive support
To help understand the challenges facing the sector and also to provide insight on how best to work with communities in developing logistics proposals, Copper commissioned detailed research into how the logistics development is perceived by people across the UK.
Our findings have uncovered some interesting considerations and with it helped us in providing some key recommendations:
- There is broad degree of understanding that the development of employment land is necessary:
- 67% would support the development of logistics centres because of the employment opportunities they would bring
- 61% cited economic growth as a reason for support
- There is a degree of misunderstanding about how the logistics sector functioned, meaning educating communities on what logistics is and how it functions is required.
To assist with tackling these issues, we have developed four key recommendations for the sector based on the research we commissioned:
- More collaboration with local authorities is required to develop shared goals and objectives
- People are largely supportive of the economic importance of the logistics sector and therefore should be front and centre of any proposals
- There is a degree of misunderstanding about the sector, therefore an education programme on its importance and way it works is required
- Early engagement is key. Working with communities in developing proposals and schemes will minimise challenge and problems.
Now, these steps are not a magic bullet for all logistics development. However, we are introducing these thoughts as part of a conversation to build stronger collaboration between the sector, communities and local authorities. It’s clear that demand for logistics development is growing, but without the necessary land or planning approvals the sector will stall.
It’s clear that there is a huge amount of opportunity for the logistics sector to work with communities and local authorities to meet the growing demand for logistics development. However, engagement and positioning is key to ensure proposals are welcomed.
To find out more about our research and findings visit Logistics-Report.pdf (copperconsultancy.com)
Copper Consultancy, one the UK’s leading specialist communications agencies, has expanded its UK reach by opening a new office in Manchester.
Based in the Northern Quarter in the heart of the city centre, the opening is a signal of intent for the agency which was recently acquired by RSK Group, the global environmental solutions firm.
Copper specialises in developing innovative communications strategies for companies and organisations across the infrastructure and built environment sector, supporting clients including National Grid, National Highways, the Department for Levelling Up and Communities & Housing, the Department for Transport.
The opening of the new northern base, along with its new relationship with RSK Group, will provide a strong foundation to further deliver its award-winning work for current clients as well as expanding into new sectors.
The consultancy is actively recruiting in Manchester and will offer communications professionals a rewarding and exciting career opportunity.
The office will be led by Copper’s Strategic Director for Economic Development, Tom Morrison, who has over 15 years’ experience of working across Northern England.
Managing Partner, Martin McCrink, said:
“Our new Manchester base will provide a great platform to deliver for clients, existing and new. As we grow, we are keen to attract the best talent across the north to our business. Our talented team takes on some of the most important challenges for our clients and were keen for more communications professionals to join us on our journey.
Strategic Director, Tom Morrison, said:
“The future is very bright for us and I am excited for the next chapter in our story.
“The last few months have seen exciting developments for Copper. As well as the announcement of our partnership with RSK Group, we have celebrated a host of new client wins across the water, energy, change management and construction sectors.
“Copper has a strong track record in the region. We’re keen to build upon this work and support our clients, central and local government drive even more investment into the North.”
The new office address is: Fourways House 57 Hilton Street Manchester M1 2EJ
The very words ‘airspace change consultation’ present a complicated and technical picture that will seem somewhat irrelevant for many people.
With the forthcoming airspace change coming for many airports around the UK, we’re giving our key considerations, challenges and top tips to cut through the noise and make consultations as straight-forward and useful as possible.
Airspace change consultations are a requirement. This immediately puts engagement in risk of being run haphazardly, or as a tick-box exercise or afterthought with little thought about the audience.
The first, and most important consideration, is that a consultation is an opportunity to build relationships with your local stakeholders.
Instead of viewing this as a task, flip the script and get excited about creating new touchpoints, new collateral and vocalise the positive work you’re doing.
Consultation events present a fantastic opportunity for you to learn what people like and dislike, what matters most to the community and ultimately, to hear what they want. This point of contact doesn’t come around too often, so use it to reflect, review and revive your communications.
Airspace change is confusing.
There is an abundance of technicalities that affect the operational delivery of an airport. But in reality, this will not impact your consultation attendees.
People want to know how this will affect their day-to-day life. Questions like:
Will it be noisy over my child’s nap time?
Will I see that plane from my favourite garden seat?
Will I notice the difference on weekends?
We must not forget that airspace changes do affect people’s lives and it can have an impact on their everyday routines.
With that said, consultation gives you the chance to directly address these concerns. Getting people on the ground in the local communities to openly discuss, manage expectations and level concerns will go a long way to help relationships with your stakeholders. Through open dialogue and acknowledging the challenges, you can clearly set out the steps you’re taking that will mitigate adverse impacts.
Top tips for consultation:
- Technology is your friend: When it comes to something as technical as airspace change, if there is a way to present information in an engaging and exciting way, it should be worth considering. There are brilliant tools to help show changes to airspace, from interactive maps, virtual reality, and noise pollution simulations. Where possible, use it. Of course, budget dictates the art of the possible so choose where to invest.
- Visuals over written: When speaking or presenting to stakeholders on airspace change, language can sound scary.
- Plain English is key: Where possible, simplify the language to plain English and refrain from using technical jargon. When considering what ‘plain English’ looks like, a simple tip is to imagine explaining it to your family. If the information is not sensitive, you could actually ask them to read it. If they understand, great! If they don’t, more can be done to help land the messaging. If you can’t find a way of explaining in plain English, ask whether it would be better as a visual, or whether you need to include it in public-facing materials at all.
- Have people on the ground: While digital-first can streamline engagement, digital-only is a dangerous precedent to set and strips out the important relationship-building that people value and your team needs to carry out. Organising accessible and inclusive events within the local community provide opportunity for informal interaction. Through showing visual graphics, audio simulations and Q&A slots, you are opening the door to meaningful interaction with stakeholders.
To chat about your upcoming work and how we can help, email Sophie.Pearce@copperconsultancy.com
‘The future of urban futuring.’
This is the tagline greeting you when you visit betterstreets.ai – a simple, no-frills landing page that gets straight to the point. What founder and artist Zach Katz instead wants you to focus on is what he’s offering; a unique window into a world no longer burdened by clogged-up road networks, dangerous pedestrian footpaths and unsightly roadworks.
We held our first Active Travel Webinar in June, in which a key conversation topic was centred around ‘the battle for road space’. From this, it was suggested by our panellists that the UK’s archaic road network was not fit for purpose to yet promote modal shift.
Fans of the television show Westworld will know that Season 4 has reimagined New York City as an almost car-free city, apart from a few autonomous vehicles. The show sees characters walking through quiet pedestrianised streets dotted with plazas, green spaces and an abundance of outdoor seating; a complete juxtaposition of the New York we all know today. This high-budget, polished CGI is captivating, but what do you do when you don’t have a multi-million dollar HBO budget? And what if you want to see the same, but in Slough?
Better Streets has brilliantly highlighted the potential of our existing streets.
The AI software uses text inputs to create a unique image, transforming any traffic-laden street into a bustling pedestrian walkway, a cycle-led active travel route or a grassy tram route in seconds.
The renders aren’t perfect, but they are igniting people’s imagination and, perhaps most importantly, getting more and more people talking about the alternatives to our current travel network. As we look to further embrace multi-modal transport systems in our towns and cities, a simple and relatively cheap piece of technology such as this could be the spark needed.
Copper understands the power that visualisation can have on audiences, enabling them to engage with complex infrastructure projects and understand exactly how it may affect them. This, in turn, enables us to have honest and open conversations. We can work with you to produce animations, renders and other visual-based engagement activities to enhance your project or programme of improvements.
As Katz says: “visualising things is the most powerful way to effect change”.
The publication of the Government’s Jet Zero strategy marked a watershed moment for the aviation industry. The document is one of the most far-reaching and significant aviation policies published to date, adding flesh to the bones of how the industry will meet net zero by 2050.
Having supported clients to be among the 1,500 that submitted responses to the Jet Zero consultation, it was heartening to see that the UK Government had taken a bold, albeit challenging, approach. The target seeks to halve the carbon emissions produced between 2019 and 2050, with domestic flights (which comprise 4 per cent of total UK aviation emissions) being given until 2040 to achieve this. This trajectory to 2050 is based on the “high ambition” scenario, setting industry targets of:
- 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2030 – which is equivalent to the annual energy usage of five million UK homes.
- 7 reduction year on year from 2030 to 2040, reaching 28.4 million tonnes or reduction of 7 million tonnes on 2030 limit by 2040.
- 91 reduction year on year from 2040 to 2050, reaching 19.3 million tonnes or a 9.1 million tonnes reduction on 2040 limit by 2050.
The Government intends to implement this through an emission reduction trajectory for the industry, annually monitoring progress and undertaking bi-decadal reviews. The ambition should be welcomed, but serious consideration should be given to whether the targets themselves are achievable and what they depend on.
The five-year delivery plans will be assessed through six methods: system efficiencies; Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs); zero emission flights; markets and removals; influencing consumers; and addressing non-carbon emissions.
The Government has made great claim of its proactive approach. This has included investing £180 million in research and development for SAFs, committing to having five plants under construction by 2025, along with the introduction of zero carbon aircraft.
However, these actions only account for 21 per cent of the intended carbon reductions in the industry up to 2050. Fuel efficiency improvements for airport operations, including the maintenance and refueling of planes along with the ancillary tasks associated with aviation account for a further 15 per cent of the intended carbon reductions in the industry up to 2050.
The mainstay of the strategy is dependent on existing emissions caps in the form of the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and the United Nations Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme (CORSIA), which are expected to deliver over 27 per cent of carbon reductions by 2050. The ambition is that the same (or greater) numbers of flights will occur, but improvements in technology and fuel efficiency will enable the industry not only to avoid breaching the threshold for emissions, but actually lowering them.
Although the technology is there to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, by the strategy’s own admission it is ‘dependent on technological development proceeding at the same rate’ to achieve this. There is no certainty that the required technological innovation will continue at the same rate and if it doesn’t, the UK will have to rely on other areas to cover the shortfall in emission reductions.
As for the remaining 37 per cent, this will come from abatement outside the aviation industry, with no suggestion as to who, what or how this will be achieved.
Where the buck stops
The timing of Jet Zero’s publication occurs at a significant juncture in public opinion. The looming cost of living crisis, with fuel costs rising, has dampened appetite for environmentally inclined public spending and taxes. For some, the cost associated with achieving net zero is proving unappealing.
This brewing frustration has influenced a shift in the rhetoric of the governing party over the previous 10 months. The excitement following the UK’s hosting of COP26 in October 2021 towards achieving net zero remains, but there is now a growing difference of opinion about how to get there. For example, the Foreign Secretary and Prime Ministerial candidate Liz Truss’ proposal to temporarily cut green energy levies, which is at odds with the accepted dogma of 10 months ago to increase or even impose more.
With the medical requirements to travel abroad all but rescinded, the UK population has been returning to enjoy international travel. Households already feeling the pinch of the energy crisis may become less inclined to support the drive to net zero when their annual holiday plans are impacted. Low-income families who anticipate the two-week holiday abroad as a necessity for their own mental and physical wellbeing during the working year may be at the core of future net zero scepticism, when the levies which will drive forward net zero make their yearly holidays unaffordable. This raises the question: has the drive to decarbonise aviation focussed on winning over the aviation industry, while failing to bring the public along as well?
An innovation nation
With public expenditure likely to be reduced after the significant burden of managing the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government must consider alternative measures to financial investment to achieve Jet Zero. Whether easing the pathway to visas for specialists working in this area of research, or by agreeing trade deals with nations who have the materials needed to build these technologies, innovation will be key to unlocking the carbon reductions needed to meet net zero in aviation and the UK by 2050.
For the people, without the people?
The Government should ensure that they engage with the public across all net zero policies, so that their input is both credibly sought and applied. The inherent risk with the Government’s current approach of engaging separate industries and not the wider public, is that implementing a policy for the benefit of the UK population, without consulting the population, may cause their concerns to go unheeded. If no action is taken to register or address any outstanding concerns, then it may prove that sections of the population become indifferent, or even opponents of the very drive towards net zero.