BECG exhibits at the Consultation and Stakeholder Engagement for Infrastructure Conference 2019

Transparency of dialogue can unlock or reset trust was a view shared by many of the speakers at the Consultation and Stakeholder Engagement for Infrastructure Conference, which BECG exhibited at on 18 June 2019. Many listed the need for honest and confident communications when dealing with stakeholders, especially those directly impacted by infrastructure projects.

Ruth Shepherd, Associate of the Consultation Institute, kicked off by discussing the trends and challenges facing the delivery of successful consultation and engagement. She gave an honest account of her industry experiences and detailed her efforts in engaging communities to become prominent stakeholders in the design process. Her most poignant point detailed how essential it is to both integrate ideas in design feasibility whilst understanding community needs ahead of asset handover, to maximise the legacy outcomes of any project.

Liz Dunn, Partner at Burges Salmon LLP (event hosts), gave an informative talk detailing legal requirement when developing consultation strategies, and how requirements and public expectation can be balanced. Detailed within this presentation were the results of research which highlighted how people are much more likely to support the delivery of any project when tangible benefits in local transport and other aspects, such as healthcare, are showcased. It’s clear that maintaining a set of key messages throughout all external communications is vital. If there are benefits; list them!

John Morris, Director at JetSetJohnnie Limited, reinforced the need for transparent communications within community engagement, whilst specifying that professionals need to fully understand the details and be confident in their ability to communicate their projects benefits and impacts. He closed by talking about conflict communications, saying “the first to fluster, is the first to lose”.

Julie King, Director of Community & Stakeholder Engagement at HS2, talked us through the varied needs of stakeholders and how engagement methods change to meet differing needs. She highlighted HS2’s ongoing pledge to review their performance against the ten key commitments made in the ‘Being a good neighbour’ engagement plan, a hefty commitment but one that really holds HS2 to account in leaving legacy items across the UK. Her breakdown of HS2’s collaborative approach and engagement methods used with their delivery partners in greenfield, brownfield and live rail environments, was most impressive.

Tim Holmes, Director of Holmes Consulting and current Communications Director for Melbourne’s Westgate Tunnel Project, took us through the role of communications professionals from planning through to delivery. He discussed his pilot consultation project, the use of a non-public domain Community Tender Advisory Panel on the Caulfield to Dandenong Level Crossing Project (dubbed ‘Skyrail’), which reviewed feedback on commercially sensitive designs after the signing of non-disclosure agreements.

Whilst risky, this allowed contractors to take on feedback and alter designs ahead of the preferred bidder announcement stage. Tim also discussed the methods they had used in trader engagement through supporting local businesses impacted by construction. From a personal point of view, it was great seeing Tim talk about projects I had worked on in Australia, and seeing former colleagues shine on film.

Rhion Jones, Founder of the Consultation Institute, chaired the conference in good spirits and facilitated some excellent questioning of speakers. His account of the evolving nature of engagement and the power of precedent, were insightful.

Having spoken with other experts in the sector who are involved in major infrastructure projects, concentrating attention around collaboration and innovation is of the utmost priority.

As a trusted expert in the built environment space, BECG will be working on infrastructure projects around the UK, continuing to provide insight-led and cohesive stakeholder engagement campaigns that the 21st century demands.