As the playwright, George Bernard Shaw, once proclaimed “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. His point is as pertinent as ever in the wake of the National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) being published last week.
Alongside the big-name Carbon Capture, Nuclear and Hydrogen announcements, the NIS outlined a new National Infrastructure Planning Reform Programme – designed to refresh the existing NSIP regime – with a strong emphasis on effective stakeholder engagement across Industry, Government departments and other key stakeholders.
Effective engagement during DCOs and other infrastructure planning applications has arguably never been more important, and will be under greater scrutiny from Government and MPs following the NIS publication.
Against this backdrop, our recent YouGov survey found that almost half of MPs felt public engagement on major infrastructure projects to date had been ineffective, and only 1 in 5 MPs said they felt the public understood the benefits of major infrastructure projects.
Clearly, this presents a huge challenge to the industry, and to Government, if these projects are to win the necessary support to proceed, and ultimately whether the NIS will succeed or fail in delivering against the Green Recovery and Levelling Up agendas.
Dig deeper, and the survey also reveals that over 75% of MPs agree that more access to information would alleviate public concerns towards major infrastructure projects.
A similar proportion of MPs (77%) believe that local communities think Net Zero-aligned infrastructure projects can justify their negative impacts, with just a tenth saying they do not. Interestingly, amongst Labour MPs the proportion agreeing that such projects can justify their negative impacts was 90%, in comparison to 70% amongst Conservative MPs.
So what does this all mean for infrastructure?
Clearly, the positive message to take away from these findings is the vast majority of MPs feel improved communication would alleviate public concerns around major infrastructure projects – thereby increasing public understanding and, ultimately, support for big infrastructure projects amongst the public.
The Government’s Green Recovery Plan aims to catapult the UK towards post-COVID-19 infrastructure-led economic recovery.
More infrastructure and a greater focus on engagement as the NIS outlines means more meaningful and effective public consultation is critical to ensure projects can be delivered effectively, and ultimately whether the Green Recovery Plan succeeds or fails in hitting its targets.
At BECG we have a track record of success for effective communications on some of the biggest and most innovative infrastructure projects in the UK, across a broad range of sectors.
This is underpinned by our integrated approach to communications – including high quality, innovative design, film, and our Built to Engage suite of digital solutions – and a proven ability to drive public engagement on complex projects.
We are helping our clients to connect with their stakeholders and communities with an industry-leading solution to digital consultation that is cited as best practice by the National Infrastructure Planning Association (NIPA).
Download the full set of results here
For more information please contact Laurence Bowyer.