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.