Arcadis CH2M JV commissioned us to work with Highways England Major Projects team to manage the stakeholder engagement elements from the Options Phase period up to the Preferred Route Announcement on the A2 Bean and Ebbsfleet Junctions. It is assumed that an application will be submitted under the Planning Act 2008, subject to the continued definition of the project as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).
The junctions are surrounded by other major projects which had to be considered in the project: Lower Thames Crossing, and London Entertainment Resort on Swanscombe Peninsula. These surrounding projects provided high uncertainty in their traffic modelling and included common key stakeholders across the three projects.
Highways England were keen to run a consultation in Winter 2017 that would inform the public of the proposals and constraints, and would also draw from local knowledge and identify any improvements or alternatives to the proposals put forward.
The proposals directly affected several homes and a local animal sanctuary within a very close-knit community so there were some contentious issues to be considered.
Engagement Strategy and Delivery
Our first activity in 2014 involved mapping the different stakeholders in the area. We involved the Local Authorities in the process to share their local knowledge with the Project Team. The stakeholder mapping was not a static activity and was updated as needed in advance of the public consultation period stage 1.
Following the stakeholder mapping exercise, we developed a Stakeholder Engagement Strategy to ensure engagement was delivered before the first public consultation in 2017. The Strategy presented an approach to stakeholder engagement that will be compliant with the Planning Act 2008’s requirements for NSIP.
Due to the local area’s complex development future, with several overlapping projects, we convene and manage an Engagement Coordination Group, which met every quarter approximately for 2.5 years.
We also organised and facilitated several stakeholder workshops during stage 1 and 2 or the project.
Communication Plan and Equalities Impact Assessment
We produced a Communications Plan providing a high-level overview of the aims, objectives and strategy underpinning communications activities with local communities and with stakeholders.
The Communications Plan set out the aims and objectives to guide communications throughout the project, a summary of the evidence and information that informed the plan, such as research on the local political context, other local projects, stakeholder mapping and local demographics, SWOT and PESTLE analysis, and it also put forward the resulting implications for communications. In advance of the Communication Plan, we also delivered the Equality Impact Assessment Screening which sets out the equality and diversity considerations for the entire project, including guidance for communications activities.
Public Consultation Plan and Delivery
We designed and ran a six-week public consultation on the proposals for improving Bean and Ebbsfleet junctions.
Respondents had several options to submit their feedback: online via the consultation website, a dedicated freepost address and email address, and in person at Public Information Exhibitions.
We processed and analysed all responses according to a bespoke coding framework that was iteratively adjusted to reflect the themes emerging from the responses throughout the process. We then produced an insightful report structured around the coding framework, which was very well-received by Highways England.
The culmination of our work on the project was the delivery of the Preferred Route Announcement in August 2017.
Public Information Exhibitions
We also organised 5 Public Information Exhibitions (PIEs) that ran alongside the public consultation. The PIEs were designed to inform the public of planned changes and provide the opportunity for them to ask questions and discuss details and concerns with experts and other project team members.
83% of consultation respondents who also attended the PIEs said that they found them helpful in addressing their questions to some extent.
In order to drive local awareness of the scheme, the consultation, and the PIEs, letters where distributed to 74,219 households in the area surrounding the scheme and brochures with consultation questionnaires were distributed to 14 local libraries.
Our analysis report for the A2Bean Ebbsfleet junction improvement scheme was praised as exemplary by the Highways England Project Manager and was shared with other Major Projects within Highways England.
“The A2BE project PCF Stage 1 and 2 has received the highest CPF scores ever awarded to the HH Joint Venture. This was not only the highest CPF score ever awarded to HHJV, it is the highest CPF score awarded to any Highways England Supplier -working on all projects under Highway England’s PSF, SMP and CDF procurement frameworks”. Halcrow Hyder Joint Venture Board