At this year’s Highways UK, Copper Consultancy hosted an in-person panel event at Highways UK on biodiversity implementation. The event, chaired by Copper Director for Infrastructure and Major Projects Andrew Weaver, focused on the role the sector could play in enhancing biodiversity on projects and the value add of new initiatives – featuring insight from Kate Vincent (Atkins), Howard Gray (GreenBlue Urban), Liz Allchin (Jacobs) and Joanna Gilroy (Balfour Beatty plc). 

The key takeaway from the session focused on the need for biodiversity implementation at the early stages of the project lifecycle. All panellists agreed that, too often, biodiversity is seen as a blocker to projects’ acceptance, with net zero goals being deemed “too hard” to achieve.  

Dismantling these myths and heightening overall awareness and education of concepts like biodiversity net gain can play an important role in changing the way projects are being delivered. Kate Vincent emphasised the importance of digital collaboration, as well as valuing the local knowledge of the stakeholders; adding that many local residents and stakeholders can become project advocates if only they are being listened to. 

Liz Allchin, meanwhile, noted that “we need to look at biodiversity from the perspective of habitats and not species” pointing out that too often biodiversity is only thought of at the end of the project. Especially when project teams are heavily engineering-focused, there is a need for senior leadership teams to make sure that the ecological aspects aren’t overlooked.  

Joana Gilroy also highlighted the need to transition away from the traditional cost/benefit analysis of road projects, arguing that the industry needs to find a way to value ecosystems, as well as stop focusing on who pays for adding to areas’ biodiversity. Ultimately, it’s all of us that will lose out if flora and fauna are sabotaged without mitigation measures in place.  

With the requirements for Biodiversity Net Gain in all Nationally Significant Infrastructure projects incoming in November 2023, panellist Howards Gray rightfully acknowledged that biodiversity is no longer going to be a ‘nice thing to have’. For this to succeed, the cost, social and ecological aspects must be valued equally. There is a need for planners and developers to look at projects holistically and link biodiversity goals to other KPIs – ensuring that the strategic objectives of the projects are clearly understood at the start of the project lifecycle.  


To watch Copper Consultancy’s webinar on Biodiversity Net Gain from February 2022, click here 

As we begin to see more scrutiny over the public purse in post-Covid Britain, we may see a proportion of funding diverted away from large, strategic transport projects.

We need a step-change in our relationships with privately owned cars if we are to reach our net zero targets.

Read the report here.

The ‘stakeholder handshake’, building a compelling story and a culture where you want (to want) to go beyond tick box engagement – what lessons can we learn about stakeholder engagement from industry leading figures.

Martin McCrink, Managing Partner at Copper interviewed two leaders from National Highways’ Complex Infrastructure Programme – Chris Taylor (Director) and Sarah Walker (Head of Stakeholder Engagement and Communications). We’ve set out some highlights.

All too often, stakeholder engagement and communications is seen as a ‘task’, a box to be ticked or a mechanism to show a board or client that one must be taking the public and stakeholders seriously, because there is a team that ‘manages’ the public. Or, signing off a communications strategy document at the start of a project and then expecting everything to be better simply because ‘a process’ was in place. These things are unlikely to benefit a project, a team, the client or customer unless stakeholder engagement is seen as a core tenet of project development. These are  often erroneous attempts to shortcut the thinking that’s needed.

Each company, board and project has a decision to make – is stakeholder engagement a chore or an opportunity?

To help examine this, Copper sat down with Chris Taylor and Sarah Walker from National Highways to talk about the benefits for the planning, construction, and ultimately the end use, of our infrastructure and wider built environment. You can watch the interview here.

The stakeholder handshake – lay the foundations to build an engagement strategy

Clients and developers face a common challenge – to articulate the need and justification for a given project or investment. That requires securing buy in from clients, funders, government or elected representatives. This matters because often sooner rather than later we have an ask of stakeholders – for a societal licence to operate or as part of the consenting regime.

Early work is required to understand what stakeholders can gain from a project, be it a primary, secondary or tertiary benefit. What’s important is to weave these benefits into a project’s purpose to create the opportunity for a ‘stakeholder handshake’ – a series of commitments or boundaries you can adhere, to go back to in tougher times and celebrate in easier periods.

With early mutual understanding, you can start to build trust – key principles of a project, show there are lines you won’t cross, benefits you’ll deliver and promises you can show you’ve kept.

Build an audience on your terms to join an already live conversation

Whether project teams like it, or even know it, or not, conversations are happening about infrastructure projects. And within these conversations, a range of views – support, misinformation, opposition – are formed. So how do we manage this?

Firstly, we need to understand and build our audiences. It is tempting to only talk to those who want to talk to a project team – usually with a motive to oppose. But this misses an opportunity to talk to everyone who a project is for, not those already motivated to have a view. This requires a smart communications strategy to engage these audiences, informed by concrete data and insight to understand how audiences consume information.

Secondly, we need to tell compelling narratives which take people with us. We need to bring projects to life to make them accessible, setting out the need, benefits, potential impacts, proposed mitigations, and ultimate opportunities. Without a clear and compelling narrative we create barriers for people to understand the complexity of projects. This creates a vacuum which misinformation and simplistic opposition explanations will fill.

Losing control of the public discourse in this way becomes as real material risk to the consentability or construction programme of projects. Decision makers can only make judgements on what they can see. So if we lose control of a project’s story, we inadvertently cloud the project reality in the minds of our key audiences.

We’ve learnt across our projects that you have to commit to repeating this narrative and keeping people informed because most infrastructure projects, from first concept to commissioning, can be years or even decades. The key audiences may remain the same but the individuals comprising these will change over time – just because you have communicated a vision once doesn’t guarantee it has been heard, understood and will remain unchallenged.

What’s communication got to do with social value?

Unlocking tangible social value is challenging without meaningful public engagement. Projects need to know that their efforts make a difference, but this value also needs to be celebrated and crystalised into a lasting and positive legacy. Communities need to understand projects and know and trust the teams delivering them in the first instance, if the community and social benefit outcomes are going to be of real value to them.

“You’ve got to want (to want) to deliver good engagement”

Project culture is critical. If stakeholder engagement, and therefore regard for stakeholders and the public is a bolt on, you cannot expect a strategy to meaningfully improve a project and for good relationships to form with communities without putting in the work to make it happen. Like with any professional or interpersonal relationship, there needs to be a healthy tension mitigated through reasonable give and take between project teams and their stakeholders. If a project team wants to enjoy the support of stakeholders, you’ve got to want to dig deep, work with those outside a project, and be seen to do so.

What have we learnt?

Both Chris and Sarah expressed the importance of ensuring engagement is embedded into the leadership, structure and culture of a project team. If a strategy is superficial, expect the results of your stakeholder engagement to be so too.

We discussed the challenges and opportunities faced by those of us passionate about sustainable modes of travel and examined how to optimise the benefits and public appeal of these investments.

If you were unable to attend the webinar or wish to watch it back, you can do so here. We’ve summarised our main takeaways for you below:


Active travel as quality time

This reoccurring and important theme was at the heart of our discussions. The importance of communicating these benefits is key in aiding the cultural shift to prioritise active travel. Whether it be quality time with family, connecting with your surroundings or the rush of serotonin from a good cycle, the multi-holistic benefits of active travel must be celebrated and promoted. Just one example of how engaging communication can aid that change in behaviour.


The ‘critical mass’

The fear and un-easiness when cycling or walking, especially in busy town centres, must be recognised as a deterrent when choosing active travel. Whether it be through the implementation of car-free cities like in Ljubljana or ‘Mini-Holland’ style cyclist-led infrastructure we need to create choice. Creating a ‘critical mass’ of cyclists was suggested as a means of improving safety, and in turn reducing pollution and encouraging a cultural shift in transportation methods.


The battle for road space

The challenge posed by our archaic road network resonated with speakers due to simply not being fit to support a multi-modal shift. As vehicles continue to get bigger and the ‘car is king’ ideology remains, it is important we work collaboratively to ensure our limited road space begins to bring balance and work equally as well for both road users and active travel modes. This includes ensuring that we address the current lack of interlinking active travel schemes and do away with the advent of the ‘cycle lane to nowhere’.


The visibility of active travel funding

The disparity in funding for active travel infrastructure is something which cannot be ignored. There is currently a £2bn commitment to active travel, which is part of the wider £5bn funding strategy for cycling and buses. In comparison, we’re in the middle of the government’s second Road Investment Strategy funding period (2020-25) which has committed £27bn to improve road infrastructure around the country.


What’s next?

Overall, the difficulty in progressing towards a more active, sustainable and future-proof transport system is multi-faceted. We’ll be keeping the conversation alive by hosting additional events in our Sustainable Travel series, and we’re keen to discuss how to implement strategic communications with you to benefit your sustainable travel projects.

Want to know more? Please contact me, Tom Bennett, Associate Director – Transport:



In the Union Connectivity Review, Independent Chair Sir Peter Hendy concluded that the Government’s policies to build back better and level up require different, strategic cases for transport investment across the country. The review built on the ambitions of the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP), widening its scope from transforming connectivity in England to the rest of the Union.

Hendy’s Review emphasised economic growth, job creation and social cohesion, themes that have since been echoed by both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

The potential implications of this are far-reaching – covering a wide range of projects, from the pre-application stage all the way through to construction. If implemented, its recommendations will offer plenty of opportunities as well as challenges, with planners and contractors potentially having to navigate very different infrastructure planning systems and political landscapes at the same time.

The Review outlined recommendations to improve connectivity with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In the Chair’s words, these provide ‘comprehensive, achievable and clear plans forward to better connect the whole of the United Kingdom’.

For Scotland, this could mean reduced rail journey times and increased capacity on the west coast main line, alongside an assessment of the east coast road and rail corridor.

In Wales, it recommended improving the North Wales coast main line and rail links to the Midlands from Cardiff. It also recommended improvements to the A55, M53 and M56 roads and the South Wales Corridor. As anticipated in our latest edition of infrastructure insights, it also recommends improving port capacity at Holyhead, identifying the North Wales Coast Line as a key route for communities and businesses.

However, Welsh MPs are asking why the Government has decided Wales is not entitled to a share of HS2 spending (as per the IRP), with Liz Saville Roberts saying it ‘reveals the reality of this union of inequality’. Such concerns highlight the importance of clearly communicating the purpose of reports and the relationships between them.

Over the Irish Sea, this could mean upgrading the key A75 link to improve freight and passenger connectivity (Northern Ireland).

The Report also recommended the following:

  • Design and implement UKNET, a strategic transport network for the UK. UKNET will assess and map out key points across the UK that are essential to stronger, more direct transport connections. With additional funding and regular review, this can better serve the UK’s social and economic needs.
  • Plan improvements using multimodal corridors to support levelling up and net zero.
  • Support the development of sustainable aviation fuel plants in areas that are particularly reliant on aviation for domestic connectivity.

The UK Government will now carefully consider these recommendations in detail and work to identify the solutions that work best for the people of the UK – although the Prime Minister has already committed to setting up UKNET: “If we want to truly level up the country then it’s vital that we improve connectivity between all corners of the UK, making it easier for more people to get to more places more quickly.

“Sir Peter Hendy’s review is an inspiring vision for the future of transport, which we will now consider carefully. Determined to get to work right away, we will set up a strategic UK-wide transport network that can better serve the whole country with stronger sea, rail and road links – not only bringing us closer together but boosting jobs, prosperity and opportunity,” he said. The Review was also praised by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

The Review is a positive step towards a better-connected, more economically buoyant United Kingdom. But, its success will depend on the delivery of relevant, benefits-focused narratives and engagement tailored to local people. Associate Director Pippa Gibbs Joubert tells us more about successful engagement for infrastructure projects.

Copper will be at Highways UK next week (3rd and 4th November) in Birmingham – the event of the year for the highways and road infrastructure sector. Join us at our ‘attitudes bar’ (stand J102) to explore our industry insight, test your highways knowledge with our ‘name the road’ quiz or simply catch-up with a drink. If you don’t yet have a ticket you can register here. 

There’s a lot to talk about, but front and centre of many minds is the challenge of Project Speed.  The Government has committed to ‘building back better’… and faster. Account manager Joseph Moore examines the role of transport corridors in this vision and argues that communities must not be overlooked in our bid to ‘build, build, build’. Read his reflections here.

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:


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 Midlands mayoral election

The West Midlands electoral area includes the metropolitan boroughs of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton. It is a diverse region home to over 2.5 million people. The area has the potential to spearhead the country’s green revolution, just as it did in the 18th Century with the Industrial Revolution. The candidates vying to win the upcoming mayoral election will need to be bold, ambitious, and optimistic.

Runners and riders

(First and second choice prediction poll conducted by Find Out Now (FON) from 1 to 7 April and first choice prediction poll run by Redfield & Wilton Strategies (Redfield) from 18 to 21 April)

In 2017, the election was a two-horse race between the Conservative’s Andy Street and Labour’s Siôn Simon. Street won with an extraordinarily slim majority of 3,766 votes in the second round. This election is predicted to be no different.

Andy Street (Conservative)

FON poll prediction – First choice vote share: 45% | Second choice vote share: 52%

Redfield – First choice vote share: 46%

Incumbent Mayor, Andy Street, is pitching himself for a second term based on his record over the last four years. He claims to have attracted £3.3bn worth of investment in the region since 2017 and has committed to securing £10bn in his next term. He also wants to deliver 100,000 jobs in two years. He hopes some jobs will come from leading infrastructure projects like HS2. He is a keen advocate for HS2, believing that it will make West Midlands the heart of the UK’s transport system, attracting businesses to the region.

Street unveiled a £15bn metro and rail masterplan for the West Midlands in 2020, including delivery of eight new Metro lines and 21 new rail stations by 2040. Planning permission has been secured to reopen five stations so far. They are expected to open by 2023 and cost £61m. While Street is a keen proponent of the plans, he is not providing all the funding himself and is undoubtedly benefiting from government support. The Department for Transport is providing £20m, Birmingham City Council £21m and the West Midlands Combined Authority £21m. Street claims that he secured £250m from the government to extend the rail network in 2017 and promises to “bombard Grant Shapps” with plans for eighteen more stations if he wins the election.

Street’s green credentials are noteworthy. He wants to make the region net-zero carbon within 20 years. He will agree on a programme of new segregated cycle routes, hire a new Executive Commissioner for cycling and walking, complete the roll-out of the West Midlands bike hire scheme and deliver more hydrogen powered and electric buses, including making Coventry’s bus fleet all-electric. He believes his infrastructure and development plans can be met without impinging on the green belt, something that remains to be seen.

Liam Byrne (Labour)

FON poll prediction – First choice vote share: 38% | Second choice vote share: 48%

Redfield – First choice vote share: 37%

Street’s primary challenger, Liam Byrne, is positioning the West Midlands region at the forefront of the green industrial revolution. He wants to convene a COP-WM to bring important stakeholders in the area together to make the West Midlands the first net-zero region and the green workshop of the world. This translates into a new training and skills programme which will provide 200,000 green manufacturing and trades jobs.

Byrne will create a new Mayoral structure called GrETHA (Green Energy, Housing, Transport Agency) and give it £500m of borrowing capacity to deliver those projects. The structure will issue West Midlands Green Bonds to further increase funding. Unlike Street, he does not rule out building on the green belt.

On HS2, Byrne wants to accelerate the project to provide more jobs. He previously led a campaign against the Washwood Heath Depot because he preferred the land to be used as a business park. He has criticised the planned design of Curzon Street station and proposed that a new science museum be built in it. He wants the £2.75bn contract to manufacture the HS2 train fleet to be given to a firm in the Black Country.

Byrne has pledged to create a 10-year transport plan including the setup of a West Midlands Project Speed to replace Street’s tube map and see how the transport infrastructure programme can be delivered faster. He will urge train companies to move to electric or hydrogen trains and aims to continue the ‘very light rail’ programme in Coventry to provide a fleet of 100 shuttles and reignite the East Birmingham and Solihull Tram proposal. He wants to make Coventry’s bus fleet all-electric and half of West Midland’s fleet electric or hydrogen based by 2025. The 2025 target is ambitious and provides more certainty than Street.

Byrne has promised to roll out a walking and cycling network across the region to double cycling use by 2025, so 50% of all journeys in town and cities are either or walked or cycled by 2030. He will also appoint an active travel champion.

Jenny Wilkinson (Liberal Democrat)

FON poll prediction – First choice vote share: 4% | Second choice vote share: N/A

Redfield – First choice vote share: 6%

What makes Jenny Wilkinson’s bid distinctive is the promise to establish local Citizens’ Assemblies to help find solutions to challenges, including the climate emergency and system racism in public institutions.

It is unclear whether voters will buy into Wilkinson’s call for direct democracy. Considering the stunningly low turnout of 27% at the 2017 election, residents do not appear to be engaged.

Steve Caudwell (Green)

FON poll prediction – First choice vote share: 8% | Second choice vote share: N/A

Redfield – First choice vote share: 5%

While Steve Caudwell is unlikely to cause any major upsets, if the frontrunners can convince Green voters that they have the best environmental solutions, that might secure them the edge as the second-choice candidate and win the second round.

Unlike the other candidates, Caudwell wants to bring buses back into public ownership and end the West Midlands Railway franchise.

Pete Durnell (Reform UK)

Redfield – First choice vote share: 4%

Pete Durnell is an anti-establishment libertarian who previously ran as a UKIP candidate in the 2017 mayoral elections.

He is the only candidate openly critical of HS2, calling it a “massive vanity project, and clearly not the best way to spend £100bn”. Instead, he wants to spend the money on an integrated transport network.

Voters might select Durnell as a protest vote, so who knows where their second choice will go.

Local issues

Unsurprisingly, the key concern for voters is health. This comes after Covid-19 has ravaged communities over the last year, causing 100,000 people to lose their jobs. According to Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ recent poll, the key issues for voters are:

  •  Health (50%)
  • Policing (42%)
  • Environment (37%)
  • Economic growth (33%)
  • Education (33%)

Of those key issues (note: education not included), Labour is more trusted than the Conservatives to deliver on all key campaign issues except for strengthening the economy. The green revolution and infrastructure development is key to economic recovery in the West Midlands, where the Conservative’s Andy Street is perceived as particularly strong. While Labour is trusted to handle the majority of local issues better, the Conservatives are polling ahead. Could Street’s record on infrastructure make the difference?

Wider picture

Whatever the outcome on May 6, the future of the West Midlands region is integral to the United Kingdom’s green revolution and economic recovery from Covid-19. The future Mayor needs to fight hammer and tong for the West Midlands to ensure it benefits from government funding and plays its role as the second most populous region in the country. Byrne has already criticised Street for not being bold enough and planted his flag as the candidate to do it. He said: “People in the West Midlands can name Andy Burnham and they can name Sadiq Khan, but they can’t name their own Mayor,” he said. “Lots of people in the Midlands feel we now risk being overlooked.” Will voters side with Byrne or will they back Street with his infrastructure and development focused record as Mayor and background as Managing Director of John Lewis?

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.

Wider picture

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