Campaigns: Manchester aims to land runway - Public Affairs

Increasing traffic from Manchester Airport was putting pressure on the existing runway. The airport authority decided a second runway would ease congestion. But since the airport lies amid Cheshire countryside there was bound to be strong opposition. The consultation process started in 1991.

Increasing traffic from Manchester Airport was putting pressure on

the existing runway. The airport authority decided a second runway would

ease congestion. But since the airport lies amid Cheshire countryside

there was bound to be strong opposition. The consultation process

started in 1991.



Objectives



The six-strong in-house press and PR department, with additional

lobbying support from Hill and Knowlton and GJW on an ad hoc basis, has

handled the emerging story from the start. Three heads of PR later, the

department is now lead by Sally Sykes. The team’s aim was to mobilise

local support and convince a sceptical Cheshire County Council (which

owns the land for the second runway) that expansion was a good idea. It

also had to convince local environmental and residents’ organisations

that adequate provision would be made for disruption to habitats.



Tactics



Over 11,000 letters of support were submitted to the inquiry in

1994.



Many of the groups which the PR team had helped mobilise - local

business groups, local chambers of commerce, the CBI, a 100-strong MPs

support group, airlines, employees, political figures and industry

commentators - gave evidence to the inquiry.



Throughout the six-year campaign, MORI conducted attitude surveys for

the airport. The first commission was for a residential public attitude

survey - comprising short interviews with 6,600 local people and 1,600

long interviews. This showed that environmental considerations were at

the top of the local agenda. Over the next 18 months, two further MORI

surveys were targeted at MPs and local business people to gauge

attitudes.



Results



A decision in favour of the second runway was announced on 15 January

1997, although environmental protesters have since set up camp and tree

houses on the runway’s new site. Work should begin in the spring and the

airport is due to open in 2000, in time for the 2002 Commonwealth

Games.



Verdict



The sustained communications strategy clearly helped emphasise the case

for a second runway.



Although two local MPs, Neil Hamilton (for Tatton) and Stephen Day (for

Stockport) have maintained active opposition to the expansion throughout

the campaign (the runway will cover sections of their constituencies),

Cheshire County Council, which was initially hostile to the expansion,

negotiated improved terms on noise pollution, environmental and public

transport issues and eventually supported the plan.



Mike Kiddey of local press agency Marsdens, which has covered Manchester

airport for 15 years says: ’There has been an exceedingly good flow of

information from the airport on the campaign, and on the whole, they’ve

presented a very positive story, with plenty of facts and figures.’



Client: Manchester Airport plc

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Manchester Airport’s second runway

Timescale: 1991-January 1997

Budget: Undisclosed



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