One step closer to connectivity for Cornwall: A30 proposals are accepted for examination.

To say this scheme is long-awaited would be putting it mildly. Despite more than 95% support for the principle of the scheme (as documented during public consultation in 2016), proposals have been on – and off – the table from as early as 2004. Now, the Planning Inspectorate’s acceptance of the proposals for formal examination spells a major breakthrough for the scheme, which Copper has played a key part in driving forward since the preferred route announcement in July 2017.

If approved, the scheme will link up over 100 miles of dual carriageway, paving the way for improving perceptions of Cornwall as a viable place to visit and do business with. This is crucial for boosting the regional economy, which is still underperforming compared with UK averages.

The scheme, which is part of the first wave of the Government’s road investment strategy (RIS 1), includes a new 8.7-mile dual carriageway running alongside the existing A30 – which will be retained as a local road – while the existing hazardous roundabout at Chiverton will be replaced by a free-flowing, two-level junction.

To achieve acceptance of a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) such as this, engaging with a whole range of stakeholders and the public in productive conversation about every aspect the scheme is vital. The challenge with the A30 was not to gain consensus on the need for the scheme (the economic benefits alone would repay any investment four-fold), but to persuade people to stand up and get involved.

A strange phenomenon occurs when the public is generally supportive of an infrastructure scheme: ambivalence in the face of consultation. The public’s assumption is that unless there is significant vocal opposition to a scheme, it will go ahead regardless. That’s why the A30 project team put communications at its heart. Close collaboration between engineers, scientific specialists and project managers allowed for effective, joined-up communications, focusing on turning passive supporters into vocal advocates for the scheme.

This allowed the project to connect with and educate the public about DCO requirements, and create a media buzz around the project. More than 800 people attended consultation events, and a similar number provided feedback which tangibly helped shape the scheme’s final proposals, a summary of which is available here.

The project communications generated real interest in the plans, and so far, it has paid off.