The HS2 interchange is set to be a world-leading station and an investment in Britain’s future. It will unlock value across the West Midlands, transforming Solihull into a civic destination hub, driving job creation and wider economic growth, and levelling up the region. A partnership of two internationally renowned construction and civil engineering companies, Sir Robert McAlpine and VolkerFitzpatrick, and one of the world’s leading professional services firms, WSP has formed under the name Unity, to deliver the world’s first BREEM validated station. We were tasked with developing a web presence to position the partnership ahead of the bid process for Interchange.
It was vital that decision-makers had confidence in those potentially delivering Interchange and that information was available quickly and easily. The website also needed to provide an anchor point for bid-related marketing activity.
The breadth of expertise within the partners is significant so we set out to emphasise its credentials as well as inspire confidence in the partnership itself by highlighting past collaborations. Given the audience, we also made a conscious decision to keep the website to key pages only, with an accessible design.
A partnership between our creative services and construction team, we developed key messages and content, including case studies to demonstrate competence, experience and excellence. To bring the team’s value to life, we created an icon style and a series of other graphics that underlined the collaborative approach to the project.
The website received positive feedback upon its launch.
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.
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.
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.
RWE has ambitions to support the UK’s net zero goals and committed to investing £15bn in renewable generation in the UK. The business is rapidly changing, and we are tasked with helping the RWE team tell its evolving story.
To achieve its aspirations and contribute to positive change, RWE needed to transform its narrative and reach strategic audiences to reposition itself in the UK as a leading supporter of the UK’s journey to net zero.
Supporting investment and development aspirations required better relationships with statutory, political and community stakeholders. RWE’s new strategy and its impact on the UK was largely unknown, and educating those with influence was critical. Positively influencing at a national, regional and local level was also on RWE’s agenda to secure a greater share of voice.
Our approach was a sustained, multi-channel communications campaign to illustrate and reiterate the new brand and corporate strategy. Evaluation of the brand through the assessment of media and stakeholder sentiment gave us insight into share of voice, reputation and impact and, in partnership with RWE, developed a new corporate positioning strategy.
Already an integrated part of the RWE team, we developed a highly effective programme revolving around digital and social content laid the foundations for reaching critical audiences. Videos, animations, and graphics, delivered primarily via LinkedIn, visually bring RWE’s story to life. At the same time, we developed thought leadership pieces to begin to build RWE’s profile. Such assets supported our high-level media relations campaign and stakeholder engagement strategy designed to secure the attention of those most influential in the space.
The strategy achieved significant success for RWE, launching it onto the national stage, contributing to key conversations around renewables. We secured agenda-setting coverage in the Financial Times, Daily Telegraph and the Scotsman, and the BBC and Reuters. Significant exposure activity combined with a focus on high-level stakeholder engagement culminated in RWE holding a prominent role in the UK investment summit hosted by the Prime Minister. While further afield, we secured regional engagement with Welsh and Scottish devolved authorities and influencers.
Perceptions of the RWE brand shifted, it enjoys a greater share of voice and significant influence in relation to renewable generation in the UK. RWE is still on this journey and we continue to provide strategic and tactical support.
Viking Link is a planned 1400-MW interconnector between the UK and Denmark. It comprises over 760km of underground subsea cables between converter stations at Bicker Fen in the UK and Revsing in Denmark. The onshore cables run 68km from the Lincolnshire coast to the inland converter station.
Alongside National Grid and a multidisciplinary project team, Copper was brought on board to lead the communications and consultation activity across three consultation phases for this sensitive project.
This project was politically sensitive and politically charged, spanning multiple local authorities and Westminster constituency boundaries. As a result, communications needed to be meticulously planned to avoid additional conflict and secure political acceptance.
Linked to this was public opposition to EU-backed projects resulting from the timing of the pre-application phase, which coincided with the Brexit referendum, and a high proportion of Leave voters in Lincolnshire.
Given the project sensitivities, it called for an engagement and community-led approach. Central to this was developing a compelling need and benefits narrative to help stakeholders and the public understand what the project means for their community.
The geographical spread of the development required a wide-reaching consultation strategy to ensure all corners of the communities along the route could share their views. Alongside this, we focused on bringing political stakeholders into the conversation through a robust political engagement strategy.
Such a large, linear utility project spanning five local authority areas necessitated a collaborative project team approach to consultation and engagement.
Alongside crafting an audience-focused narrative to bring the project to life for local people, we created a straightforward narrative to articulate the complex route and siting process ahead of the route options consultation. This helpef built project understanding and emphasised its positive contribution to the local community in a way that was accessible to a broad audience.
With equal emphasis on engaging political stakeholders, in conjunction with the project team and National Grid, we developed a political engagement campaign that kept MPs and councillors fully briefed on the project, focusing on the scheme’s advantages for the local area.
We also delivered a communications and stakeholder ‘drumbeat’ outside of key consultation milestones, which was vital to maintaining momentum and building acceptance and advocacy for the project. This included regular political briefings spanning site visits and presentations at full council meetings and hosting our own events.
The multi-pronged, collaborative approach resulted in high levels of participation from residents, landowners, parish councils, elected members and community and stakeholder groups. More than 1,000 local residents and stakeholders participated in the consultation, providing 600 pieces of meaningful feedback to help shape and guide the project.
Viking Link is currently under construction and expected to be operational in 2023.
The Norfolk Boreas offshore wind farm is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) which, along with its sister project – Norfolk Vanguard – will have an installed capacity of 3.6GW, representing 10% of UK household demand.
The 725km2 wind farm site is located 72km off the North Norfolk coast and will consist of between 90 and 180 wind turbines with rated capacities of between 10MW and 20MW.
Copper was brought in to deliver compliant consultation and stakeholder engagement, fast.
Projects of this size and scale bring a level of interest and concern amongst local residents and businesses. However, Vattenfall’s flagship UK projects faced increased scrutiny. Developments of this kind are becoming ubiquitous along the whole Norfolk coast, and Vattenfall’s projects are just two of several proposals. As a result, there was vocal opposition to associated onshore, above-ground infrastructure. With the potential to adversely impact communities along the cable route too, a compelling narrative and engaging consultation were imperative.
Given the level of scepticism and misgivings about such infrastructure, our priority was to build trust and earn respect from stakeholders and local communities.
With a requirement to deliver ‘gold standard’ consultation at pace, the first step was to understand the key audiences – who they were, their likely perceptions and potential concerns, to be as targeted and proactive as possible. Using stakeholder mapping, we identified and gathered insight into key stakeholders, community groups and general public audiences. Armed with intelligent data, we delivered audience-focused workshops and events and held meetings to discover and address concerns, proactively resolving issues.
Throughout the consultation period, we delivered 31 community consultation events and workshops and organised more than 200 meetings with the local parish councils, groups and representatives. In addition, we supported seven events people and proactively engaged with 100% of landowners along the cable corridor.
Our creative team supported the audience-centric, proactive approach with a full suite of statutory consultation material in an easy-to-understand format. The materials were designed to articulate the project, its benefits and encourage input from stakeholders and the community. Assets included a consultation summary booklet, information banners, response form and bespoke information leaflets.
We secured a high volume of meaningful feedback during the consultation, which formed the basis for a comprehensive consultation report, and the project received consent in December 2021.
Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is part of the Government’s strategy to keep the lights on in the UK. National Grid is building a high-voltage grid connection for the project, between Bridgwater and Seabank near Avonmouth. In 2009, we were tasked to develop and deliver a consultation strategy to support the Development Consent Order application. We have been retained ever since, taking this major project from planning through to construction. The project is in construction, and we continue to support National Grid and its contractors. Our team also works to protect and enhance National Grid’s reputation to leave a positive legacy for the project.
Hinkley Point C is a nationally significant infrastructure project and a major investment in the region’s electricity network. However there was significant local opposition to the proposals throughout the planning and development stages. This posed a risk to the project if it were to continue into the construction stage. We needed to switch the communications approach from ‘reactive’ to ‘proactive’ and reposition the narrative to concentrate on the project’s benefits.
We worked closely with National Grid’s team to identify and promote positive stories about the project. We used this as the foundation to develop and implement a sustainable programme of project communications to meet the formal requirements of the Development Consent Order.
To minimise the risks of project delays, opposition and criticism we provide clear and timely information to stakeholders about the work in their area too, and quickly respond to any concerns. We devised procedures to inform and update local communities and other stakeholders about construction work and the steps National Grid and its contractors take to reduce local impact. We also put processes in place to monitor the mood of local communities, allowing us to identify and respond rapidly to any emerging issues.
Since construction started, we have communicated with more than 10,000 households. We also maintain and regular update a project website, making it the ‘go to’ place for stakeholders to learn the latest information. We have established positive relationships with local community groups and parish councils and use these links to help spread information as widely as possible. Should there be any concerns amongst the public, a responsive 24-hour contact centre service enables the local community to get a swift response.
Despite the highly disruptive nature of the work, there is widespread public acceptance of the project. A minimal number of complaints have been received and no issues have been escalated by local residents or community stakeholders to the media or their elected members. These successes have given National Grid the confidence to reposition the project narrative going forward. In the future, communications and engagement will place an even greater emphasis on the positive impact and benefits National Grid will bring to the area over the next five years and beyond.