On 14th July 2021, Highways England launched its new public community impacts consultation for the Lower Thames Crossing, a proposed new road connecting Kent, Thurrock and Essex through a tunnel beneath the River Thames.

Copper has been providing consultation support for the project, which is part of the biggest investment in the country’s road network for a generation and an essential component in the UK’s future transport infrastructure.

The eight-week consultation will provide communities with an opportunity to have their say on the latest proposals to build and operate the Lower Thames Crossing, including how the impacts would be mitigated, changes made to the project since the design refinement consultation, and how feedback received at previous consultations has been used to develop the project.

Copper supported the preparation and delivery of the design refinement and supplementary consultations, which were launched in 2020. With Covid-19 guidelines and restrictions now starting to ease, there will be face-to-face public events for the first time on the project since 2019. For this latest consultation, a hybrid approach to engaging with communities has been adopted, with a combination of both digital and physical events and measures in place to ensure everyone can access, understand and comment on the proposals.

Nationally significant infrastructure projects, such as the Lower Thames Crossing, have an important role to play in supporting the UK’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and future economic growth.

Copper will continue to support the Lower Thames Crossing as the project prepares for its Development Consent Order application.

For further information about the Lower Thames Crossing and the community impacts consultation, please visit: https://ltcconsultation.highwaysengland.co.uk/


Pride was a little odd for AECOM last year, as it was for organisations around the world. Gone were the parades, parties, and on-street protests thanks to the pandemic, but the LGBTQ+ community still rallied round, arguably more than ever. Collaborating with Building Equality, companies from across the construction and engineering industry worked together to host countless online events and ensure the community still felt supported.

With the prospect of in-person Pride events back on the table for 2021, the excitement from the LGBTQ+ community and beyond is already palpable. Due to re-opening dates being pushed back in many countries, we’re looking at the prospect of ‘Pride season’ rather than ‘Pride month’, and that’s no bad thing. It certainly feels like more companies than ever, across all industries, have changed their logos and voiced their support on social media for Pride season. It’s been amazing to see after a turbulent year, but it’s more important than ever to remember that we must be proud every day of the year, not just during Pride. It’s also important to keep in mind some of the positives we learned from the pandemic, we’ve proved that not only can online events and support be effective, they’re also low carbon and largely accessible if done right.

Year-round support for LGBTQ+ colleagues should start with establishing an employee resource group to raise and work on concerns. The group should be a safe, accessible, intersectional space, not only for the LGBTQ+ community but also allies and those who want to offer support but aren’t sure where to start. These groups generally start as grassroots movements, but it’s equally important to show that there’s not only leadership buy-in but also visible support and representation at the highest levels that cascades through the business.

Whilst employee resource groups tend to provide social support; policies, procedures and language use are also significant in terms of ensuring the LGBTQ+ community feel supported. Often overlooked, guidance on issues such as transitioning, pronoun use and the importance of allyship can be a vital resource; for both the LGBTQ+ community and managers alike. Much of this guidance is already available online, with relatively minimal work required needed to make it relevant for individual businesses.

This Pride season let’s make sure our support for the LGBTQ+ community is more outwardly visible and authentic than ever, it’s important to remember that Pride started as a protest and people around the world are still having to fight for their basic human rights. Arguably the real work starts not during Pride but during the rest of the year, when businesses and colleagues need to ensure that there is continual support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Pride: a deep sense of satisfaction in what you’ve accomplished; in who you are; and in what makes you unique. To celebrate Pride this month, we’ve encouraged our colleagues to share their stories and show that by championing inclusion and diversity (I&D), we can feel more empowered and united.

Let’s go on a quick tour of our global offices to see the work and activities carried out by our Pride@Stantec Employee Resource Groups – an initiative launched in 2017 to create a safe, supportive space for LGBT+ colleagues and allies to come together.

In the Netherlands, you’ll notice a flash of colour on entrances, as you print a document, grab a coffee, or visit a bathroom. Our Pride symbol, a rainbow pixel heart, in the form of stickers are placed in locations to communicate our inclusive culture.

In San Francisco, our Pride events coincide with the city’s world-famous LGBT+ Pride. To help new employees feel welcome in our large office, our staff send emails with their photos so everyone can quickly recognise and greet new starters.

In Canada, we held our first ever Pride float in Edmonton’s 2017 parade. The float helped colleagues get to know each other better and also encouraged to build up a local contingent of allies. The blend of people involved has demonstrated the concept of inclusion—it isn’t about creating exclusive clubs; it’s about bringing everyone together.

In the UK and Ireland, we’ve participated in national Pride activities including parades in various cities, and a 2020 Virtual Pride Parade. Last year, we established a partnership with Stonewall, dedicated to empowering individuals and transforming institutions to better support the LGBT+ community. This year, we’re holding virtual Pride celebrations from 28 to 30 June, producing role model videos around What Pride Means to Me, and are getting involved in Manchester Pride. Each reception area of our UK offices also now has an amazing ‘Everyone is Awesome’ Lego set.

In New Zealand, we launched inclusion workshops for teams which gave participants the opportunity to share their own experiences in a safe setting. The focus is also leading by example, and at the end of each inclusion workshop, the leaders ask participants what they’ll personally do to increase inclusion.

We encourage our staff to call out things that need to be corrected and be a voice for those who might not be brave enough or ready to be the voice themselves. This year, we’ve created Pride banners for our virtual meetings, and encourage staff to use pronouns on email signatures and LinkedIn profiles. Our people share their stories, through webinars, internal communications platforms and employee groups.

Other activities to increase the inclusiveness of our Company include examining our language, our policies and benefits programmes, setting up Inclusion & Diversity Councils, and hosting unconscious bias training. We’ve been named by Forbes as a top employer for diversity, are proud of our new partnership with Workplace Pride, and joined forces with other organisations, including Stonewall in UK, OK2BME and Pride at Work in Canada, and Rainbow Tick in New Zealand.

Over the years, we’re proud to say we’ve made some incredible progress. However, as we continue to evolve, so does our understanding of how we need to take this to the next level. The inclusive workplace we want to achieve empowers and inspires and provides psychological safety and wellbeing. Without inclusion, diversity is that much more difficult to achieve. To attract and retain top talent from all walks of life, we need to ensure inclusion is a way of being. Truly transformative work is born from diversity. Harnessing the power of all the characteristics that make us who we are is vital to our success. We design with community in mind and to genuinely fulfil that promise, we commit to equity in design and to be representative of the many communities we serve.

As well as building Britain’s new low-carbon, high-speed railway, it’s also important that HS2 Ltd attracts a diverse range of people to help deliver Europe’s largest infrastructure project. As a result, we want our workforce to represent the diverse communities along our line of route and the future generations the railway will serve once operational.

With our four core values – Integrity, Leadership, Respect and Safety – diversity spans across all that we do at HS2. Furthermore, our CEO, Mark Thurston has made diversity and inclusion a personal commitment as we collectively strive to leave a stronger and more representative workforce for the next generation, capable of delivering the UK’s future pipeline of infrastructure projects.

Earlier this year we became the only organisation in the UK to have achieved the Clear Assured Platinum Standard accreditation. We received the award in recognition of our commitment to embedding inclusive best practice into all elements of its work, including the design and delivery of the new railway.

Underpinning much of this activity is Onboard, our employee network for LGBTQ+ people and Allies. The network aspires to be an exemplar network for both our own employees and supply chain partners, and also demonstrates how we’re being a good neighbour in the communities we work in.

Onboard has helped to update policies and documents to make HS2 Ltd more inclusive. Changes it has made as a result include a more comprehensive trans inclusion policy and gender-neutral toilets. This approach is being applied to support future generations as we design our infrastructure and rolling stock.

Onboard also collaborates closely with a range of other employee engagement groups, including HS2’s own Gender Balance, BAME and 2Gether Disability Networks, as well as equivalent associations within our supply chain.

An example of this collaboration is the recently launched HS2 Allies Programme. The programme is shared by all the Networks and each group runs a session for HS2 employees – including our Executive team and Board – on how to be an Ally both in and out of the workplace.

However, we’re certainly not complacent as an organisation and there is always more that we can do, including the challenge to embed our same level of commitment across the thousands of companies that make up our UK supply chain. In fact, later this year we will be publishing the LGBTQ+ diversity of our supply chain – thought to be an industry first – and it will be one of the best benchmarks of LGBTQ+ inclusion in construction.

From a personal point of view, being part of Onboard is intrinsic to my experience as an out gay employee at HS2 Ltd. From social, networking and learning opportunities to policy and monitoring, Onboard makes me feel valued and visible in the same breath – which is a great feeling. A particular highlight was getting to represent HS2 Ltd at Birmingham Pride in 2019 together with Building Equality, an alliance of construction organisations and professionals working together to drive LGBTQ+ inclusion in the construction sector.

Alongside our workforce and its legacy, what we deliver for LGBTQ+ communities is just as crucial as our industry commitments. We have collectively gone above and beyond mandatory regulatory obligations in setting new standards, using focus groups, workshops, panels, and soundboards to understand what inclusive design means for those with protected characteristics.

Over the next few years, as our stations start to take shape and our track gets laid along the length of the country, our design vision will become even more apparent to our future passengers. Together, we will prepare to experience a railway network that offers greater choice, reliability and improved accessibility, and this is something we can all be proud of.

The government’s recent adoption of a new target to reduce emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 put renewed focus on sectors such as international aviation and shipping which previously sat outside the UK’s Carbon Budget. But the adoption of recommendations from the Climate Change Committee also has major implications for an industry much closer to home. James Gore considers the decarbonisation challenge faced by the housing sector. 

The UK has some of the most energy inefficient housing in Europe, a situation exacerbated by increased working from home during the pandemic. Many column inches have been devoted to the eye-watering cost of retrofitting existing housing stock, with the bill for the social housing sector alone estimated at more than £100bn. But, as the Climate Change Committee has pointed out, work is also needed to close the gap between design and actual performance of new homes when it comes to energy efficiency. 

Improving the performance of new and existing homes requires a workforce skilled in low-carbon heating and ventilation and closing this low-carbon skills gap could provide opportunities for young people who have been hit hardest by the economic impact of Covid-19.  But inspiring a generation to help make this happen requires a coordinated approach to communications from government and industry. 

At the same time, the sector must do more to counter negativity around the potential cost to homeowners and landlords of meeting the decarbonisation challenge.  Increasingly, organisations in the social housing sector are working together to procure services and develop the skills required to meet the decarbonisation challenge, and there is a strong case for this joined-up approach extending to the sector’s communications on this issue. 

Copper’s research into public attitudes to net zero emissions in the UK suggests the public are willing to invest in new technologies if this is accompanied by some form of incentive from government. But negative media coverage about the effectiveness of replacement heating systems risks reducing people’s appetite for making the required changes.  Without clearer articulation of the benefits for both individuals and society as a whole, the housing sector faces an uphill battle to convince the public the price is worth paying. 

In the run up to COP26, the housing sector will have opportunities to shine a light on these challenges and showcase steps it is taking towards a low-carbon future.  It is important that the sector speaks with one voice on this critical issue, making clear its ‘asks’ from government and communicating a positive message to the public about the opportunities that come from decarbonisation. By cutting through noise on this issue to communicate a clear and compelling message, the housing sector can emerge as a leader in the UK’s efforts to meet its net zero target. 

Find Copper Consultancy’s ‘Attitudes to Net Zero’ research here. For more information on how to address communications challenges around decarbonisation contact James.Gore@copperconsultancy.com 

This May, parties will face their first electoral test since the Covid-19 pandemic, and voters will decide who has the most compelling vision of Britain’s ‘new normal’. This will be a vision that needs to deliver for villages, towns and cities across the country, while addressing underlying changes to living and working structures.

We are following five battles across the UK, each of which will have significant implications for development and infrastructure plans locally and nationally.

The battlegrounds we are focusing on are the West Midlands Mayoral, the Tees Valley Mayoral, Northumberland Council, West of England Mayoral, and Thurrock Council. These elections provide an excellent platform to examine the influence and cut-through of the government’s levelling-up agenda, writ large in the commitment to ‘build back better’ through extensive infrastructure development.

About Thurrock Council

Thurrock Council is one of only two unitary authorities in Essex, meaning it has responsibility for the provision of all local government services within the district. The 2021 local election is expected to be “a wild one” according to the New Statesman. The Council has changed hands numerous times in recent years, and smaller parties such as UKIP have shown an ability to challenge the two major parties, winning in Thurrock in 2016. Since 2007 neither the Conservatives nor the Labour Party have primarily had overall control of the council, apart from Labour in 2012 and when the Conservatives took control in 2019.

In the upcoming elections it is expected that UKIP will make gains off both Labour and the Conservatives, with the UKIP vote in Thurrock growing steadily since 2016. The Conservatives are defending seven seats and attacking 10, they would need to lose five to lose their majority. Labour on the other hand are defending four and attacking 13, so need to win nine if they seek to gain control of Thurrock Council.

The Council has also succeeded in gaining approval from the Chancellor for a major new Freeport, been designated as a lead authority by the government to the £220m UK Community Renewal Fund, has received £500,000 from the government’s Towns Fund initiative designed to level-up regions within the UK, and has several other ongoing infrastructure upgrade projects.

Local issues

The election in just under two weeks takes place against the backdrop of major disruptive refuse worker strikes, due to the proposed renegotiations of terms and conditions of their contracts which the Unite Union claims will see workers wages cut. Labour will be hoping the controversy surrounding these strikes, which are due to continue until the day after the election, will play a role in convincing local constituents to flip the balance of power in their favour.

Thurrock is also home to the Port of Tilbury, which is the principal port for London and the main import port in the UK for paper. In March 2021, the Chancellor signed off on the approval for the port to become part of the creation of the Thames Freeport. This has been a major win for the Conservative led council and will see the creation 25,000 jobs in the local area, as well as unlocking the potential for countless opportunities and transformational change in the area and for locals.

Thurrock is currently undergoing a major period of infrastructure and development renewal, upgrades, and creation. From the recently started £34m scheme to replace the flood defense gates at the Port of Tilbury, which will safeguard thousands of homes and business in the area, to the upgrade on The Manorway which will see the road made quieter for the use of HGVs.

Lower Thames Crossing

Thurrock Council is a major stakeholder in the Lower Thames Crossing (LTC) Project, which has been dubbed Britain’s most ambitious road project in a generation. The Council strongly opposed several aspects of the development and this is likely to be a big-ticket item for votes in May.

Perhaps of most national significance for this local election is the impact Thurrock could hold over the Lower Thames Crossing. This Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) would play a key role in the government’s “Build Back Better” mantra, as well providing a much-needed boost to the local economy and employment market. The approximately £8bn project, is being proposed by Highways England to relive decades of congestion caused at the Dartford Crossing by almost doubling the road capacity east of London. It is hoped the two 16m wide tunnels running under the River Thames will allow for fewer delays and better journeys, as well as providing a much-needed boost to local, regional and the national economies.

Wider picture

The Thurrock Council election is definitely one to watch next month, not simply due to the many nationally significant developments going on within the borough, but as a reflection on the current state of national politics.

What impact will the recent repeated 18 months of Covid lockdowns have on voters? How strong a place does UKIP still hold in this country? And simply for any political pundit to follow the wild ride of minority control that has affected governance of Thurrock Council since 2007. Can the Conservatives hold on? May 6th will reveal all…


Copper Consultancy will be providing ongoing coverage of the May 2021 Local Elections. For more information, please contact alastair.fisher@copperconsultancy.com