Abandoned vehicles are a major problem for many local authorities,
and their residents, as more and more cars are being left on roadsides
in the UK. The reasons would seem to be a sharp fall in scrap metal
prices, the ban on lead in petrol, an increase in car ownership and the
cost of vehicle disposal.
The council at Crawley in West Sussex wanted to act decisively, and so
implemented an abandoned vehicle amnesty, enabling residents to hand
over their unwanted vehicles free, without facing prosecution.
To create a low-budget PR campaign to publicise Crawley’s abandoned
vehicle amnesty, with a target of at least 150 vehicles over a four week
To inform Crawley’s 96,000 residents of the council’s clamp-down on the
problem, and that following the amnesty offenders would be liable to a
pounds 2,500 fine and/or up to three months’ imprisonment.
Strategy and Plan
Once the mechanics and legalities of the amnesty were in place
internally, a communications plan was produced. It had a heavy PR and
editorial emphasis, backed up with press advertising, warning notices
for vehicles and a 24-hour telephone hotline for the surrender and
reporting of abandoned vehicles.
The local press and broadcasters were targeted with the aim of getting
repeated, extensive and high profile editorial coverage throughout the
four week period.
A series of high profile advertisements in the Crawley News backing up
the editorial coverage were placed, playing on the themes of ’Don’t be a
Lemon’ and ’Last Chance Saloon’. Specially commissioned photographs of
abandoned vehicles were used in support of the media coverage.
Internal communication was also deemed important. Regular update
meetings were held between the communications unit and the council’s
licensing section, which was responsible for the amnesty.
All council staff and members were also updated via the council’s
intranet site, e-mail and the staff newsletter. There was also close
liason with Sussex Police, West Sussex Fire Brigade and West Sussex
County Council, all partners with Crawley in tackling abandoned
Measurement and Evaluation
The number of vehicles reported and surrendered was an easy measure,
which could be updated daily for the press. The Abandoned Vehicles
Amnesty achieved expansive coverage in the local press - including the
Crawley News, the Crawley Observer and the Brighton Evening Argus, on
local radio - BBC Southern Counties and Radio Mercury, and in Crawley
Council’s bi-monthly magazine for residents, Crawley Live. Meridian TV
and BBC South also covered the amnesty as a news item.
The campaign was very successful, especially in light of the small
After the four-week campaign, 165 vehicles were handed over to Crawley
Council for destruction.
The amnesty cost the council pounds 1,900 in towing fees plus the costs
of the PR campaign. However, if the cars had been removed from the
roadside as abandoned vehicles, it would have cost pounds 4,600 in
storage fees, as cars have to be stored for 28 days in case they are
claimed by owners. Over 300 telephone calls were made to the telephone
Since January 2000 an additional 281 abandoned vehicles have been
The telephone hotline is to be maintained to allow people to continue to
report dumped vehicles.
In addition, Crawley Council unexpectedly received enquiries from other
councils keen to replicate the scheme, who had seen the Meridian TV
Client: Crawley Borough Council
Campaign: Abandoned Vehicle Amnesty
PR Team: In-house communications unit
Timescale: 22 November-17 December 1999
Budget: pounds 600, excluding staff costs