How important is communications in gaining support for major infrastructure projects?

Last month, we hosted the PRCA’s Built Environment Group at BECG’s London office to discuss the role of communications in making major infrastructure projects a reality.

Julius Duncan, BECG Director and Chairman of the PRCA BE Group, welcomed MHCLG’s Head of Infrastructure, David Waterhouse, Bradwell B’s Head of Communications, Kate Stinton, and BECG’s Head of Infrastructure & Energy, Jamie Gordon, as the expert speakers and panel.

All agreed that communications and engagement are no longer seen as ‘nice to have’ but are of real importance in large scale projects. A point Kate illustrated by the fact that a Development Consent Order can be withheld by the Planning Inspectorate if there has not been a suitable level of engagement and communication with local communities and wider stakeholders.

David spoke of major infrastructure development as the ‘glue’ that holds the prosperity of the country together. He advised that the challenges to infrastructure can emerge when engagement is left too late: “If you don’t invest that time early, up front, in communicating the impact, benefits and opportunities of infrastructure development that can then create challenges further down the line”.

This view was echoed by Kate, who strongly advocated the benefits of long-term communications, reflecting on how international nuclear incidents did little to dent the UK’s confidence in nuclear energy because they were aware of the significant benefits of nuclear and the need for new power stations following a sustained period of communicating the benefits to key stakeholders throughout the country.

Kate saw first-hand during her time working on Hinckley Point C, just how important grassroots support is. When Prime Minister Theresa May decided to review the scheme, it was local people, businesses and politicians who mobilised to express their support of the project, because from an early stage the benefits had been communicated to them.

The event brought together communications professionals from across the built environment and Kate’s advice to them was clear “put in the leg work, do you research, be completely ready to listen and don’t think that you know everything”.

Jamie shared Kate’s view but went one stage further and said that “communications professionals should be prepared to fully embed themselves in a team and get to know the project like the back of their hand”.

At the question and answer session, Julius added that “it’s key to forget about trying to just to communicate or broadcast message, we’re in a listening business, you need to engage wholeheartedly, authentically and really listen”.

BECG has extensive experience in generating engagement and support for large infrastructure and energy projects such as HS2, offshore wind, Bradwell B, and various Highways England schemes to find out more about the services we offer visit www.becg.com