The UK energy sector is undergoing a period of change as new generation capacity is installed around the country to address the need to ensure a reliable source of energy and address climate change. National Grid is the owner and operator of the UK’s high-voltage electricity transmission network and as such they are committed to connecting new generators such as nuclear power stations with the existing transmission network. New connections are proposed at several locations across the UK.
Traverse was part of a team of organisations working with National Grid to ensure that the design of each new connection (Hinkley, North Wales, North West, Mid Wales Bramford to Twinsted and Richborough) is developed via a process of dialogue with stakeholders and local communities. Plans were developed over a period of years, during which statutory bodies and members of the public were consulted periodically. Our involvement in the projects culminated as National Grid submitted an application for Development Consent to the Planning Inspectorate which demonstrates how they have successfully listened to and engaged with local communities. We carried out some 20 stages of consultation and analysed over 25,000 responses as part of this programme.
Traverse began working with National Grid in 2010, providing analysis of consultation responses already collected at two sites – a total of more than 9,000 responses. We worked with project teams to develop a framework for coding and analysis that can be applied across consultations while maintaining the flexibility to adapt to the unique characteristics of each project. We received, logged, and processed responses from a range of sources into our unique database system. A team of analysts applied the agreed codes for each question, with results available to the National Grid project teams in real time through our secure access website. As with all our analysis projects we have produced a series of reports including narrative summary reports which are made available to the public and raw data reports for the project team and potential auditors such as the Planning Inspectorate.
Subsequent to our initial analysis work with National Grid our role evolved to provide expert engagement advice to project teams across the country. We worked with them to design and implement future consultations, including the development of questions, supporting information documents and online resources. We developed online response facilities for each connection which are in line with National Grid’s corporate branding, offering a simple, cost-effective mechanism to collect consultation responses.
Key lessons from the first sites werelearnt, resulting in an increasingly refined process – both in terms of efficiency for the client and the success of the engagement process from the point of view of the participants.
Our consultation reporting formed a key part of the application submitted by National Grid to the Planning Inspectorate for Development Consent. We are able to provide a transparent, auditable record of all consultation activities over a period of several years. This gave National Grid the confidence that their extensive engagement programme would be recognised by the planning authorities, and that local communities were able to take an active part in the development of proposals for their local area.