Working with government to bring town investment plans to life


The Towns Fund is at the heart of the government’s ambition to levelling up places which have historically lacked investment and opportunity, enabling economic growth and regeneration. To support towns with securing and delivering the Town Deals, The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) appointed a delivery partner. It also represented a new way of working for government that of itself would help inform the shape of future funding delivery models and programmes.

The Towns Fund Delivery Partner is a consortium of six private sector organisations working as one with each fulfilling distinct strategic functions and bringing specialist expertise. Arup as consortium lead and with a multi-disciplinary role across the programme and service delivery, was supported by: Nichols Group leading on management and operations; Copper Consultancy as communications and engagement lead; FutureGov, learning and experience, governance and leadership lead; Grant Thornton, funding and investment, monitoring and evaluation, data insight lead; and Savills providing specialist place-based expertise.



Putting the town’s needs first was key. Based upon a town-centric and continuous learning approach to understand towns’ challenges, what they needed and when, the Towns Fund Delivery Partner was able to design and refine the support it offered as the programme progressed. It delivered advice and support at a range of levels that aimed to add value rather than duplicating resources already available to towns.


Overall Strategy

Working alongside the Towns Fund central team and Cities and Local Growth Unit Area Leads, the Towns Fund Delivery Partner was committed to the principle of co-design and co-working with Government. The Towns Fund Delivery Partner’s insights gleaned through its bottom-up approach, helped DLUHC develop its guidelines and requirements, identify the level and type of support provided to help towns that needed it most, and allowed for continuous improvement in delivery. A Total Towns Outcomes Framework questionnaire also gained understanding of towns’ longer-term priorities and desired outcomes.

Copper-Specific Support

We have been an integral member of the Towns Fund Delivery Partner’s strategic leadership group as lead advisor on its programme communications, working alongside the consortium team to deliver timely communication about the Towns Fund Delivery Partner’s services and support to towns. An ongoing commitment to understanding and anticipating both towns’ diverse needs and priorities, and in interpreting DLUHC’s requirements of towns in securing and delivering Town Deals, has been a necessity to manage a complex programme where towns are at different stages on the journey. We established and led the Communications and Messaging Working Group to facilitate a joint approach between the TFDP and DLUHC over the duration of Towns Fund Delivery Partner’s involvement in the Towns Fund.

Our expertise in effective community and stakeholder engagement, market positioning, brand development and use of social and other media has been drawn upon heavily by towns, firstly in developing their Town Investment Plans and then during early-stage Business Case development. This has been achieved through the creation of bespoke Towns Fund resources either as online guides, blogs and webinars or through one-to-one advice and coaching, Check and Challenge sessions and learning programmes such as Place Leadership and Making Connections Count.


Between May 2020 and November 2021, the Towns Fund Delivery Partner helped towns across four cohorts to develop a vision for their towns, produce Town Investment Plans to secure Town Deal offers and provided early-stage support to develop Business Cases for agreed projects. At its height, the Towns Fund Delivery Partner had over 260 team members representing 13 disciplines and 16 topic areas across the breadth of the country.

Worth more than £2.4 billion, all 101 towns that were selected for the programme received their Town Deal offers, paving the way for the delivery of nearly 800 projects across England.


The West of England’s mass transit project aims to transform the way people move around the region, dramatically improving congestion and air quality while reducing carbon emissions.

It represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revolutionise travel in the region by providing a high-capacity public transport network with fast, frequent and reliable services that will be developed and delivered over several years.

Copper was brought on board to support West of England Combined Authorities with early stakeholder engagement to better understand the needs of local people, providing evidence of a strong Strategic Outline Business Case.



A history of false starts for major infrastructure in the region meant some stakeholders were sceptical about the likely success of new projects. This was compounded by the project being in extremely early stages, with the concept of mass transit ill-defined. The

There was an added layer of complexity with the project spanning several councils all with distinctive demographics, geography, and politics. The region needed to ‘speak with one voice’ in its support for the project given the competitive nature of central government funding.

To add further challenge, Covid-19 restrictions ruled out face-to-face events meaning all engagement activity had to take place online, with the risk that some community stakeholders might be excluded.



Our approach hinged around early, transparent engagement on the objectives of the mass transport project to establish its purpose and solidify the concept in the minds of stakeholders. In doing so, we aimed to build understanding and trust around the project.


We began engaging stakeholder groups early while scheme options were still in development to understand their priorities for a mass transit system.

The first stage saw us run a series of internal workshops with partner unitary authorities to explore the vision and values of mass transit. We crafted a clear narrative that all partner organisations could sign up to and use in their communications, enabling us to establish a single voice and alignment around views.

We supported live briefings and three webinars with a wide range of stakeholders from MPs to grass-root community groups. In addition, we were careful to select interactive engagement tools to bring new voices into the conversation and enable input and feedback representative of the locality.


By consulting early, we laid strong foundations for future engagement based on mutual trust and respect. Starting a dialogue with stakeholders warmed them up for consultation. It helped us secure meaningful, representative, qualitative and quantitative feedback that reflected the needs of communities and stakeholders and influenced the development of a Strategic Outline Business Case.


Transport East is the sub-national transport body for the East of England. The partnership was developing its first transport strategy, and Copper was appointed to support early stakeholder engagement. Our role was to ensure the Transport East team effectively engaged with stakeholders and the public to create a strategy representative of the needs and ambitions of communities in the region.



A sub-national transport body in the area had been mooted for many years, yet it had never materialised. As a result, aligning political and wider stakeholders with opposing views on infrastructure investment and decarbonisation had the potential to be challenging.

In addition, while adult residents were an important target group, the Transport Strategy spans 30 years meaning young people in the area will feel its impact most. Their needs and views were vital to the project’s success.



Our approach was to create multiple accessible opportunities for engagement for every stakeholder group. However, COVID-19 restrictions necessitated a purely digital engagement strategy. To meet the different communication needs of each audience and ensure input from groups representative of the area, we adapted traditional engagement techniques to the digital environment.


Digital accessibility was a priority. By selecting user-friendly, interactive engagement tools, we brought new voices into the conversation, even those hard to reach.

We also ran a series of online workshops designed to allow as many people as possible to help shape the strategy to meet the needs of the masses, facilitating online meetings with 100+ stakeholders.

With an equal focus on securing input from future users of the region’s transport network, we designed and delivered a targeted campaign for young people aged 11-13 in preparation for future engagement during consultation.

Ensuring the Transport East partnership stayed updated and supportive of plans, we delivered briefings with partner authorities, the Transport East Senior Officer Group and Transport East’s annual Transport Summit.


Utilising our knowledge of the region and large-scale projects, the Transport East team secured meaningful, representative, qualitative and quantitative feedback to influence the transport strategy and set the foundations for successful consultation.

We helped introduce Transport East to a wider group stakeholders in the region, providing a platform for its campaign in front of key figures in the industry and building brand reputation.

We laid strong foundations, setting the standard for future stakeholder engagement in the region, while earning public trust that the Transport Strategy will come to fruition.


Bath and Northeast Somerset Council has an ambitious target to become net zero by 2030. Understanding the critical part transport plays in the region’s carbon emissions, Bath’s ‘Journey to Net-Zero’ set out to identify the transport measures needed over the short, medium and long term to deliver its ambition and the needs of the community. 

To get the initiative off the ground, the Council needed to make a case for the project and generate widespread, representative participation in the public consultation process.



While a high-profile project for Bath and Northeast Somerset Council, it was unknown outside of the organisation and therefore had no momentum among target groups. It was also critical the consultation was inclusive and had the support of hard-to-reach groups traditionally disengaged with the Council’s priorities.

COVID added a further layer of complexity, forcing restrictions on public gatherings, immediately ruling out face-to-face engagement opportunities.



Our priority was introducing the project to the widespread community and instigating insightful conversations with the general public, including hard-to-reach groups, and stakeholders to give them a voice and demonstrate advocacy for the project.

Our content and online strategy focused on creating a compelling, accessible narrative around the council’s vision for net zero and removing barriers to engagement and participation.


We began by developing an audience-focused narrative to tell a compelling story around the project. The narrative formed the backbone of communications and engagement assets designed to appeal to a diverse audience, including an animation, ‘fast facts’ visuals and targeted content.

Online consultation reached all pockets of the community using targeted social media channels. A thought-provoking, sharable content programme maximised our reach and prompted peer-led support for the consultation and vision.

Further engagement opportunities were created via public and stakeholder webinars.


The consultation secured engagement and input from a broad audience representative of the community served by Bath and Northeast Somerset Council. More than 1,000 responses over a one-month period reflected the needs and priorities of a wide community base, including groups usually under-represented, to help the organisation confidently shape a range of solutions.

Our Senior Account Manager Laura Cunliffe-Hall explores why women’s safety must be placed at the heart of venues and public spaces through improved placemaking.

This International Women’s Day, it’s imperative to reflect not only on progress made regarding women’s rights, but on how we can continue to improve women’s experiences of public spaces.

Initiatives across the UK are seeking to take positive steps to respond to urgent concerns surrounding women’s safety. In Leeds, Women’s Night Safe Space pilot, a joint safety bus initiative between Women’s Lives Leeds and Safer Leeds, will be piloted in Dortmund Square over the next three weekends and will be a  space where women can come if they feel concerned, unsafe, unwell or vulnerable. The initiative responded to a survey by Leeds Women’s Safety in May 2021, which identified that 50% of women of all ages, from all parts of the city, often or always felt unsafe in the city centre at night.

This bus pilot initiative follows the recent launch of the Home Office Enough campaign, designed to challenge perpetrators of street harassment, unwanted touching and coercive control. In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan has also announced additional funding, on top of a £60m investment in tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG), to help make venues and public spaces in the capital safer for women at night. Lighting and public realm improvement are also essential to improving how women can fully participate safely in public spaces.

A #LighttheWay campaign in Clyde is calling on Glasgow City Council to reverse its position on park lighting and light the main routes in Glasgow city centre parks to keep people safe at night. One of the key motivations behind this campaign is to enable women’s full participation within public spaces. Placemaking is the key to unlocking this.

Better placemaking can help us #BreaktheBias and ensure that women’s safety is protected across public life. Safety must be given prime consideration while shaping our cities and towns from the outset.

Steps we can take to make our spaces more inclusive and safer for women:

  • Any planning or placemaking process must include and amplify women’s voices – giving women and girls a seat at the table makes it easier to understand the challenges we face in public spaces and shows a genuine commitment to a dialogue of improvement.
  • Safety audits – providing a detailed analysis of potential risks within developments and planning applications that could have an impact on people’s safety. Dr Ellie Cosgrave, a lecturer in urban innovation and policy at University College London, has identified the need to understand the “social dynamics” of an area by conducting surveys, speaking to people, and implementing changes – a detailed safety audit could encompass these factors.
  • Better lighting – Arup have published reports and research on topics entitled ‘Cities Alive: Rethinking the Shades of Night’ and ‘Making Cities Safer for Women and Girls’ focusing on how the way light bounces off different road colours, surface finishes or the brightness of the area outside of the concentrated beam of light can affect our perceptions of brightness and safety in a space. Better lighting of spaces to reflect women’s lived experiences will positively improve how we are able to participate in public spaces.
  • Improving landscaping and external visibility – natural surveillance and landscaping spaces strategically not only improves access to nature, which is important for both physical and mental wellbeing, but provides improved visibility that makes outside spaces safer.
  • Regular maintenance of shared spaces– Funding to maintain and also upgrade shared spaces, across both developments and the wider public realm, projects an image of community and collective civic pride, as opposed to neglect, making spaces more egalitarian and removing the possibility of being isolated or ‘cut off’ that can create situations of vulnerability.

Further investment is required to generate tangible long-term change to make women safer.

By working collaboratively to address these genuine concerns relating to women’s safety, developers, planners and policymakers can look to future proof our communities.

It is essential that all of us in the infrastructure and development sectors work together to ensure that women’s, and all of our safety, is put at the heart of the placemaking process.

This #IWD2022, we must recognise the need to facilitate placemaking and safe space initiatives that enable and improve women’s participation across our public spaces.

To find out more about collaborative placemaking and improving safety, please contact Laura Cunliffe-Hall, Senior Account Manager within Copper’s Economic Development practice at

  • People don’t believe that Levelling-Up will deliver tangible benefits in their community
  • Local leaders are more trusted than Westminster MPs to tackle Levelling-Up and deliver change
  • People want to see powers devolved to local communities

Research conducted by Copper Consultancy, released today, to coincide with the launch of the Government’s Levelling-Up White Paper has shown that there is a significant credibility and communications challenge to overcome in delivering the flagship policy.

The research, which included a survey of 4,000 people across the country, found that only 12% of people believe that Levelling-Up will lead to tangible improvements in their community.

This underlying scepticism has the potential to undermine the ability of the Government to build engagement and adoption of its policies in local communities.

A centralised, Westminster led, approach to Levelling-Up is also likely to be counter productive, with the majority of people (59%) believing that local leaders, rather than MPs are best placed to deliver outcomes for communities.

The research does indicate a potential way to address the challenge, through rapid devolution of powers to regional and local government. The majority of people (59%) would like to see power decentralised and devolved in order to give more power to local communities.

Discussing the results, Annabel John, Director of Communications and Engagement at Copper said “From our research there is clearly an appetite for the reforms that are contained in the Levelling Up White Paper. This is a Government that has prided itself on being in touch with the feelings and aspirations of ordinary people in regions outside of London, and after a challenging period, Levelling-Up may give them an opportunity to reconnect, and a to provide a sense of purpose to their agenda.

She continued “But, they mustn’t underestimate the level of mistrust and scepticism that decades of under investment has engendered in communities. Decentralising decision making and granting genuine power to local and regional bodies has the potential to help and to be popular. But the Government is going to have to go further, to communicate Levelling-Up better to people, and to demonstrate tangible benefits that have a positive effect on individuals and communities at large.”

Copper’s Levelling-Up research was conducted in partnership with Censuswide and involved a survey of 4,000 people conducted between 25 and 28 January 2022.

Copper has been appointed by the Western Gateway to help build support for its bid to become the home of the UK’s first prototype nuclear fusion energy plant. The powerhouse partnership, which encompasses local authorities, city regions, Local Enterprise Partnerships and governments across western England and South Wales, is seeking to bring Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) to its Severn Edge location, spanning former nuclear sites at Berkeley and Oldbury.  As well as being well placed as a centre of excellence for this emerging technology, the Severn Edge site would also provide a catalyst for levelling up on both sides of the border between Wales and England, creating opportunities for people in left behind communities. 

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

As a specialist communications consultancy that’s dedicated to infrastructure, we have a unique opportunity to become involved across the whole development lifecycle. We have a role from policy development, through planning, construction and eventual operation of everything from roads, to windfarms to schools and hospitals.

Despite the brief hiatus caused by Covid-19, we are enormously optimistic about the state of our sector. The UK has faced numerous challenges for decades, from imbalances in the economy, to low levels of productivity and poor connectivity, to the looming need to decarbonise energy generation and transport.

These problems have seemed insurmountable. But that may just be changing.

There has been an acceptance across all levels of government that things can and must change fundamentally if we are to establish a successful net zero economy. That change will be all pervasive, impacting our working, as well as domestic lives, and it is inspiring an infrastructure revolution.

The outcome is that the infrastructure sector is booming, and Copper is growing fast to help accommodate and support it. We have expanded substantially in recent years, increasing the number of projects we are working on, the sectors we support and the services we offer. We expect to continue that growth in years to come, and see that our partners across the infrastructure sectors are experiencing the same increase in opportunity.

The biggest single thing that we need to capitalize on that opportunity, and to enable the change to UK infrastructure that’s needed, is to boost the availability of great people.

We have worked enormously hard to attract people into Copper, but more broadly into the infrastructure sector. We recruit at all levels, from those beginning their working life, to experienced seasoned professionals, and we are continuing to do so.

But the whole industry needs to capitalize on our moment in the spotlight, not to achieve short term growth, but to revitalize our offering to the people we work with and ensure that we are able to attract the brightest and the best people, from all walks of life.

We can offer a career path that provides rapid development, but perhaps more importantly enables people to make a tangible difference to the country. We cant promise an easy life, as infrastructure projects are complex and frequently demanding, but we can promise a job with an enormous amount of satisfaction and sense of achievement.

But that must be matched with offering ways of working that are compatible with modern family life, that are flexible and that trust people to work how, when and where will deliver the best outcomes, rather than forcing people to comply with outdated office-bound structures.

In our own really small way we are trying to take a lead in this area, enabling a completely flexible working arrangement, and allowing our highly capable team to work in ways that are right for them. People at Copper can work from any of our three offices in Bristol, Birmingham and London as suits them, but also remotely, and to decide how they structure their working week.

We support a wide range of working arrangements, with a number of our team choosing to work part time to support family commitments or academic studies.

We also offer an increasingly flexible range of benefits, including a fitness fund to support wellbeing and a flexible training fund to support personal and career development, in addition to on the job training and support.

We are far from a perfect employer and we are continuously striving to do better, with our dedicated People and Culture Director helping to ensure that we do everything we can to attract the very best people from across our industry and beyond, and to demonstrate the wonderfully fulfilling career that infrastructure can offer.