Cardiff Hendre Lakes is a proposed new business district at the heart of the Cardiff Capital Region. Served by Cardiff Parkway railway station, the development has the potential to support around 6,000 jobs and become a transport hub opening up access to employment opportunities across the region. Alongside leading communications, engagement and consultation for the project to support it through planning, we were asked to create a brand that captures a strong sense of place and bring the whole project to life.
The project’s goal is to become a catalyst for growth, contributing to the regeneration of East Cardiff and the wider Cardiff Capital Region by attracting high-quality businesses and investment. The development, which is located to the south of St Mellons Business Park, aims to deliver jobs and investment to the local area while helping people to connect with a unique landscape. All communications needed to be available in Welsh and English.
As the site is within a Site of Special Scientific Interest and part of the historically significant Gwent Levels, our aim was to build a relationship with the local community early, to explain the project’s potential benefits and incorporate local knowledge and feedback. This would lay strong foundations for the subsequent pre-application consultation. The design and branding of communications needed to be welcoming and reassuring, as well as flexible enough to work in a bilingual context.
We ran a series of branding discovery workshops to create a brand and logo in a colour palette of tonal blues and greens inspired by the natural landscape. To ensure accessibility and inclusion, we chose a simple sans serif font that would work well for Welsh and English printed materials such as a series of booklets, newsletters and feedback forms to support the consultation process. A multi-language website allowed people to access this information in a digital format. Exhibition banners, posters and signage all supported face-to-face consultation events.
The brand and materials have been well received by stakeholders and the community alike. Members of the public complimented the accessibility of materials during events surrounding the consultation.
The West Midlands Interchange (WMI) is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) located in South Staffordshire. The new Strategic Rail Freight Interchange will sit adjacent to the West Coast Mainline and span 300 hectares. Copper was tasked with delivering consultation and engagement services to support the Development Consent Order (DCO), as well as communications and support building.
It has been long-established that a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange in the area was essential to address the shortage of logistics capacity in the West Midlands. However, with the development planned on Green Belt land, there were significant concerns about its impact on wildlife, the landscape and daily lives. As a result, it faced fierce opposition. Misinformation around the scheme compounded the problem.
Our strategy was to develop a national and regional advocacy programme and proactive media campaign to manage misinformation and build understanding around the need and benefits of the project to minimise risk of objection. The approach centred on telling the story of West Midlands Interchange in ways that related to local residents and stakeholders, bringing its benefits to life for the area.
By creating a business story emphasising the need and benefits of new rail freight capacity in the West Midlands, we helped the public and stakeholders understand the major economic benefit to the area. The scheme is set to create more than 8,500 jobs and attract significant industry as well as reduce traffic across the region’s roads and introduce new parkland in the vicinity, all of which was little understood.
We also established and delivered a contact centre to ensure the public felt heard and could get answers to their questions quickly. Not only did it manage concerns that otherwise might have escalated into issues, but it also helped strengthen the project’s reputation and pave the way for acceptance.
Re-enforcing the positive impact across the region also supported the project funder’s reputation, positioning it as playing a key role in levelling up in the UK by investing in infrastructure in the Midlands.
By developing and delivering a transparent two-stage consultation process, including compliant statutory consultation, we helped ensure West Midlands Interchange was accepted for examination by the Planning Inspectorate. Local authorities complimented the consultation delivery, and the consultation report was well appraised during the examination period.
WMI was granted development consent in May 2020 and we continue to work with the project as it enters construction.
The London Resort is a proposed world-class, sustainable, next-generation entertainment resort on the banks of the River Thames. As the first of its kind, the project called for best practice, innovative consultation and engagement. Copper was brought on board to deliver a comprehensive communications campaign capable of building support for this unique project, while delivering compliant consultation to support the planning process.
There was a commitment to investors to submit the project planning application by the end of 2020, which necessitated consultation and engagement activities being delivered during the COVID-19 pandemic at a time where traditional consultation techniques were not possible. We therefore needed to innovate to ensure a compliant consultation and generate advocacy for the project. However, digital-only statutory consultation was unchartered territory.
We adopted a digital-first approach, primarily driven by disruption caused by the pandemic yet with benefits beyond overcoming national COVID-19 restrictions. It was the first time a digital-only approach was applied in a UK Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) and required a highly specialised programme.
Central to the approach was making the consultation user-focused to reach a diverse audience, including those who prefer to access information digitally and those who would normally have chosen to attend public events and in-person meetings. The campaign was designed to ensure it was an inclusive, engaging experience for stakeholders using innovative tools and techniques.
We maximised the use of state-of-the-art tools and online platforms, including a project website, social media channels, dedicated consultation webinars and a virtual consultation room.
The virtual consultation room was made interactive. Using digital banners, visitors were able to look around the room from a computer or mobile device, with the project proposals explained in a way that was easy to understand. The proposals were also made available in audio format.
To avoid the risk of digital exclusion we supplemented digital innovation with traditional consultation methods, including:
- community information leaflets delivered to households in nearby areas
- telephone surgeries for representatives from seldom heard groups
- hard copies of consultation materials produced ensuring all stakeholders’ needs could be met
We also utilised press, paid-for print and digital advertising, plus partnership promotion to extend the campaign’s reach as far as possible.
Our digital-first approach delivered a legally compliant consultation that successfully supported the planning process. As a result, it was accepted for consideration by the Planning Inspectorate. The strategy also enabled the client to meet the investor commitment to submit plans in 2020.
By incorporating a user-focused approach, we maximised the effectiveness of the publicity and advocacy campaign which was integral to the project’s successful Development Consent Order (DCO) application, making London Resort the first business or commercial project to reach such a milestone.
Delivering state-of-the-art digital consultation enabled us to widen the reach of the consultation. Combined with the unique nature of the theme park, the digital strategy created a dedicated following for the project, with 65% of people agreeing it will benefit the local area. Support was sufficiently strong we were able to utilise the advocacy to leverage our efforts towards gaining DCO acceptance.