Copper Consultancy delivered a truly creative stakeholder engagement campaign, taking a multi-faceted approach that included; media relations, political advocacy, community involvement and placed heritage and people at its heart. The campaign has left a lasting legacy on both the community and the client, and the approach that the account management team took was hugely innovative and comprehensive. The fondness of remembering the old whilst laying the foundations for new development really impressed the judges and Copper Consultancy are a deserving winner, by really influencing opinions and shifting behaviours.


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Brief and objectives:

People are surprisingly passionate about infrastructure and gasholders are held with particular fondness by the people who live with them. As community landmarks they evoke memories of their pas and people they cherished.

As part of its national strategy to remediate and release land for reuse, NGP planned to dismantle a gasholder in the centre of Bury St Edmunds. A significant national land and asset owner, NGP manages its remediation programme responsibly and sensitively recognising the impact of its industrial past on local people and landscapes, whilst also playing an active role in supporting Britain’s economy and its future infrastructure and housing needs. For the Bury St Edmunds site, it wanted to reinforce this objective and protect its reputation by highlighting the benefits of releasing the brownfield site to pave the way for much needed new development and opportunities for local people and the economy. For neighbours, the aim was to minimise disruption and inconvenience during the clearance of the site and the dismantling of the gasholder.

Copper’s brief was to develop and implement an engagement strategy for the Bury St Edmunds site to meet NGP’s local and national objectives.


Rationale behind campaign, including research and planning:

Copper carried out stakeholder mapping and visited the area to understand the context of the brownfield site within the town, its previous role as an employer and the demographic profile of the community. A political and issues audit showed what is and was important to local people. Our research showed the gasholder and the site had been an important landmark to the local community.

We identified three audience groups (3,000 people):

  • Those most directly affected – neighbours and ward councillors
  • Those most likely to have the biggest emotional connection – families with direct historical connections
  • Those with influence – other councillors with an interest such as relevant portfolio holders, heritage and wider interest groups and local media.

We recognised the emotional connection local people had to the gasholder and the focus for engagement would be a celebration of people’s memories of the past and to capture those memories in an evocative way for future generations to understand and enjoy. At the same time, it would encourage the community to be excited about a new chapter in the life of the derelict site.


Strategy and tactics, including creativity and innovation:

An engagement strategy was developed to:

  • Develop a narrative for the site – visual materials and the spoken/written word
  • Encourage audience groups to get involved in telling the story of the site via direct mail, local media and the local online community
  • Produce a permanent reminder of personal memories in a heritage booklet with photographs and memorabilia provided by local people and video footage
  • Maintain interest in the site by generating positive media coverage
  • Manage and respond to direct enquiries and requests via a 0800 number and project email address
  • Keep neighbours, ward councillors and the wider community informed of forthcoming work and how they might be affected to minimise disruption and inconvenience via letter and email
  • Celebrate the site once complete by sharing and promoting the heritage booklet and video.


Implementation of tactics:

Before dismantling (January to March 2016):

We engaged the community in telling the story of the site and to capture local sentiment. Following the heritage event where people had come together to share their memories and which were captured on film, the local community were asked to provide photographs and memorabilia for inclusion in a booklet and film.

Local media were sent a press release to explain the feedback from the heritage event and encourage future participation.

During and post dismantling (April to October 2016):

The second was to support the community, in particular those with the strongest attachment to the site during dismantling of the gasholder by providing a helpline to talk to local residents and groups and gather information and intelligence. One example was the fulfilment of one woman’s wish to see the site where her father had worked for 46 years for the last time.

When the gasholder was dismantled, Copper kept residents and councillors updated by letter and email and to manage any potential concerns regarding smell or noise.

Copper arranged an interview with the site manager and behind the scenes filming on-site of the dismantling of the gasholder with ITV News Anglia.

We wrote and compiled a 12 page full-colour booklet, including written memories and stills; and project-managed and directed a 7-minute film, incorporating vox pop footage recounting memories and life stories about the gasholder by local people.

A press release with the booklet and film were sent to local media for their use.


Measurement and evaluation:

The campaign brought together the community and put people in touch with others whose relatives had worked there.

Via the helpline, 58 residents contacted the team to share their memories and an additional 22 people who attended the event shared their experiences, stories and memorabilia. All were extremely supportive and a handful took the time to follow up by email and letter.

There were no issues or complaints during the campaign linked to issues about the site.

Sixty copies of the booklet and film were distributed to interested residents, ward councillors and community groups. The materials were also used by the local history website, St Edmundsbury Chronicle.

Media coverage was 100% positive. There was a news piece on ITV News Anglia (and online) – viewership 290,000 and two printed articles in the Bury Free Press – readership 25,000 and opportunities to see up to 50,000 (print and online). Both media channels matched the audience groups geographically.

The coverage encouraged people to share their memories and celebrated completion of the heritage booklet and film. It was informative about NGP as a considerate neighbour and talked up the potential post-dismantling benefits of developing the brownfield site.

One woman whose father had worked at the site for 46 years was gifted a piece of the structure which she converted into three steps in her garden.

The booklet and film are now lodged in the NGP’s archives. The campaign is used by NGP as an example of best practice and to demonstrate its credentials with expert bodies like Historic England.

The site works were completed on time without any issues or challenges being raised by the community and stakeholders.


Budget and cost effectiveness:

Requesting memory sharing was a positive and cost effective approach to preparing a community for future development. For a small budget, it was possible to gain disproportionate societal value to the project and to create a positive legacy for the future development.