Campaign: Environment - Stansted runway plan is grounded

Campaign: Stop Stansted Airport Expansion
Client: Affected communities in Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and
Suffolk
PR team: Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE)
Timescale: 2003 - ongoing
Budget: £2m (through fundraising)

SSE was formed in 2002 after a Government consultation on the future of aviation in the UK included options for up to three additional runways at Stansted Airport. The 2003 Aviation White Paper confirmed the Government's policy support for a second runway.

OBJECTIVES

- To stop Stansted's owner BAA from gaining approval for a second runway

- To achieve a shift in government policy to veto rather than advocate a second Stansted runway.

STRATEGY AND PLAN

SSE identified three main battlegrounds: legal challenges; influencing the City including BAA shareholders and investors; and challenges through the planning system. The PR team believed success depended on demonstrating the weak commercial case for an expanded Stansted and for a change to take place in the political climate owing to environmental considerations.

The PR team, led by campaign director Carol Barbone, built close relationships with opponents of airport expansion. It mounted three legal challenges, which attempted to weaken BAA's business case and render Stansted a less attractive proposition to a prospective buyer. Two of these resulted in two new consultations. The third was disallowed, but resulted in the postponement of the second runway public inquiry.

Enough SSE members also became shareholders in BAA to secure the right for SSE's economics adviser to address the company's AGM on political donations and to use the opportunity to argue the case against expansion in the wider media.

SSE lobbied the planning authority and won backing for opposition to a second runway.

It also published a 'BAA land grab' map, depicting an enlarged airport as an area covered by London's Circle Line underground, to enable the public to understand what was at stake.

MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION

SSE secured 7,500 members and online supporters including 150 special interest groups and councils. It gained the backing of all local MPs, the seven MEPs from the region and the four main county councils.SSE produced 19 proofs of evidence for the Stansted Airport Public Inquiry, secured celebrity support including Jamie Oliver, Terry Waite and Will Self, and held 300 public meetings to win community support. More than £2m was secured through fundraising.

RESULTS

On 24 May, BAA withdrew its planning application for a second runway following the rescinding of policy support from the coalition Government.

Pre-election, both David Cameron and Nick Clegg confirmed in writing their opposition to a second runway at Stansted. Since then, the coalition Government has ruled out new runways at Stansted during this parliamentary term for climate change reasons. The Labour manifesto stated it would not allow a second Stansted runway.

SECOND OPINION - Susanna Walker-Robson, Account director, Lansons Communications

Launched early in the Millennium when environmental issues topped the global agenda and concluded in one of the closest election years, perhaps this campaign had timing on its side. However, it involved so much more and developing the right strategy was crucial.

What really stood out was the clear identification of the different stakeholders and the carefully considered and targeted approach in reaching them. Focusing on the weak commercial case and speaking corporate language, first and foremost, positioned SSE as a serious organisation with a voice to be heard. With the business community and financial media onside, this established credibility and a platform to raise environmental issues, without being seen as overly emotive.

Opening political doors is not always easy and, from our own experience, we know it often relies on building relationships with key influencers and attending the correct events and committee meetings; more so in the run-up to an election. Becoming a shareholder to address the BAA AGM was also a clever move.

The visual addition of the map provided a powerful image of what could have been, while the right celebrity endorsement helped to win crucial community support.

This highly impressive campaign met its objectives. Furthermore, it demonstrated an integrated approach to stakeholder comms and engagement. In our view, the future of corporate comms.

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