During the month of November, the Economic Development and the Creative Services teams have successfully trialed out our new ‘streamline process’ to support Bradford on Avon Town Council in launching and delivering the Future of Transport consultation.
The new process takes learnings from our experience with large DCOs and transport plans and it applies the same principles to deliver successful local engagement in a more efficient way.
Copper has been providing support to the Town Council in the delivery of a data-led consultation. The project team was able to produce in a short time several visual, digital and printed assets, which helped to maximise engagement with local residents and businesses through different channels.
A consultation booklet (including a questionnaire), was produced, designed, printed and delivered to every resident and business in town. The project team also curated the content for the webpage of the consultation and delivered the digital version of the questionnaire, which included the interactive map (a tool that helps gather feedback on specific elements of a map).
In order to offer as many opportunities as possible to the public to have their say and their questions answered, Copper supported the Council in the planning and delivery of two drop-in consultation events. The project team designed a series of boards, which offered a clear and effective way to communicate complex and technical traffic information.
By delivering the consultation to the public digitally (via the website and the online questionnaire) and in person (via the consultation events and the printed booklets), we made sure that no one in the community was left behind. This hybrid approach has allowed the Council to take into consideration the views of everyone in town, including harder to reach groups.
Thanks to the mix of channels and assets used, the success of the project was already clear in the first two weeks since the consultation opened to the public:
The traffic issue in the town of Bradford on Avon has been affecting the local communities for over 30 years. Thanks to the clear and targeted offering, Copper has been able to help the Council to generate the necessary data that will be used by the Highways Authority to propose a solution based on the needs and priorities of the community.
If you would like to have a conversation about upcoming consultation or receive more information on Copper’s ‘streamline process’, please 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 the West of England Combined Authority
The upcoming West of England Combined Authority (WECA) mayoral election will be the second election since the Combined Authority’s creation in 2017. Whoever is elected will succeed the Conservative incumbent and inaugural Mayor of the West of England, Tim Bowles, who is retiring at this election.
All bets are off in terms of the outcome of this election for two reasons:
First, the combined authority is young and preceded by only one previous election, won by Conservative incumbent Mayor Tim Bowles. Turnout for this election was low at a time when WECA was still obscure for many, and there were no accompanying local authority elections to draw citizens to the voting booths.
Second, WECA is equally divided along party lines. WECA is composed of three unitary authorities, namely Bath & North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire, and Bristol. The leadership is represented by:
- Liberal Democrat Councillor Dine Romero of Bath & North East Somerset
- Council Conservative Councillor Toby Savage of South Gloucestershire Council
- Labour Mayor Marvin Rees of Bristol City Council
This means that, apart from Conservative WECA leader Tim Bowles, the Combined Authority cabinet is equally split between three major political parties.
May 6th will also be the day Bristolians get to elect their mayor, with incumbent Labour mayor Marvin Rees running for re-election. Rees holds considerable sway in the region, being at the head of the West of England’s biggest urban hub, which could prove to be a determining factor in the outcome of the regional mayoral election. The two incumbents have had a tumultuous relationship over the years, with Bristol’s Mr Rees claiming that the city was being excluded from key decision-making, and Mr Bowles claiming that Bristol City Council was blocking the planned expansion of WECA to include North Somerset. Although they called a truce earlier this year, the interplay of influence and power between city and regional mayors will certainly evolve following the election.
Whoever is appointed WECA mayor will exercise key functions devolved from the central government, as laid out in the West of England Devolution Agreement. Among these are responsibility over the local transport budget, control of over £30 million a year in funding, power over strategic planning and a new key route network, and responsibility for the adult education budget.
They also face a challenge that the Combined Authority, however effective it might be, has arguably yet to establish itself as a widely recognised political force in the life of those in the region, with a recent survey indicating that the current mayor has been operating under the radar for many residents.
Embracing infrastructure opportunities in the West of England
At a recent hustings event, housing and transport emerged as twin themes.
Labour candidate Dan Norris highlighted the case for affordable homes and emphasised the need for funding towards council homes and housing associations, while the Green Party’s Jerome Thomas would turn to the mayorship’s hitherto unused compulsory purchase powers as a way to buy land for new housing. Conversely, Conservative candidate Samuel Williams spoke of a ‘need to engage the market’ and his desire to see the private housing market play a key role in his vision to build 130,000 new homes over the next few years.
The election takes place against the backdrop of critical changes in the region’s transport infrastructure, with the West of England Mass Transit Project in its early stages and the Joint Local Transport Plan 4 (JLTP4) in its first phase of implementation.
Liberal Democrat candidate Stephen Williams and Jerome Thomas both agreed that they would tell officers to stop working on new roads, with Stephen Williams arguing that he would stop road construction in order to ‘work up how bus franchising would work best’.
Pointing to the fact that transport accounts for 34% of carbon emissions in the region, Jerome Thomas reflected an overwhelming agreement among candidates that sustainable transport and policies aimed at tackling the climate emergency must be at the forefront of any and all programmes. This consensus is a sign of the times for a region where a transport overhaul has long dominated the list of local issues, and where two of the most ambitious transit and road plans in England are currently underway.
While all candidates share ambitions for long-term improvements to dramatically change the way people move around the West of England, they had diverging ideas on what these would look like. Other than ideas ranging from Samuel Williams’s suggestion for trams, to Jerome Thomas’s proposal for a green bus and taxi fleet, details on what a green transport revolution would entail for the West of England are still unclear. What is certain however is that people in the West of England are impatient for a revitalised transport system, and that the upcoming Mayorship will likely go to the candidate most able to distinguish themselves as a champion for infrastructure and an advocate for transport.
The role of infrastructure development in the election and in the chosen candidate’s success cannot be overstated, as the region attempts to impose itself as a powerhouse in the wake of sweeping Government investment in infrastructure, and as the country prepares to rebuild post-Covid.
While the election will close on May 6th, the real race could begin thereafter, as the newly elected Mayor will take on the challenge of raising WECA’s profile. Tough choices will ensue, with a need for all three authorities as well as neighbouring North Somerset to overcome divergent party-political lines to work towards ambitious regional policies (including the 2030 net zero target and Joint Local Transport Plan), and major projects like Mass Transit and the Spatial Development Strategy. For any party to succeed, they must ensure they have understood residents’ concerns and have developed a decisive plan to deliver meaningful and long-lasting change to the region.
Copper Consultancy will be providing ongoing coverage of the May 2021 Local Elections. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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.