It has been a question for major project managers and promoters since the dawn of new planning laws designed to smooth the path to consent:

How do you give stakeholders and communities the detail they request on projects when you might need to adapt the approved project’s design if circumstances or technology moves on?

This is the so-called ‘credibility gap’ – the apparent difference in detail required to make a project both consentable and buildable – and a good and well-delivered communications strategy could be your best friend to help bridge it.

To illustrate the point, Copper’s managing director Linda Taylor offered an external stakeholder perspective on the issue to delegates at the Major Projects Association’s half day seminar Projects and consents, flexibility vs planning in July.

The seminar focused on the findings of recent research by Professor Janice Morphet and Dr Ben Clifford of the Bartlett School of Planning, UCL into the effectiveness of the current DCO planning process for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs).

Demonstrating the use of narrative to deliver the message on the benefits of effective communications, Linda told the planning story of an NSIP from the vantage point of a local authority official or councillor.

“Local authorities are required to listen to the sentiment of communities and have to exercise judgement about what is reasonable and what is not. Fear of the unknown and uncertainty drives the desire for clarity and detail which can potentially put promoters at odds with what they and other stakeholders need,” Linda told delegates.

“This credibility gap between the needs of promoters to build-in flexibility for their projects against the desire for assurance and detail has to be closed if the best outcomes are to be achieved by all.”

Look out for more information later this year on how Copper is leading the debate on the important issue of communications for infrastructure.