Campaign: W. Sussex tells London to keep its own waste

West Sussex County Council has launched a campaign that aims to successfully fight the notion that millions of tonnes of the capital's waste be dumped in the county's 'back-yard'.

Campaign Stop London Dumping Waste in West Sussex
Client West Sussex County Council
PR team In-house
Timescale May 2006-ongoing
Budget Unspecified

In May, West Sussex County Council found out about the South East England Regional Assembly's proposal to dump 2.6 million tonnes of London rubbish in West Sussex landfill sites over the next 20 years.

Questioning why West Sussex should be the dumping ground for the capital's rubbish, the county council mounted a campaign to stop the proposal going ahead.

To raise awareness of the proposal among local residents and generate strong opposition to it.

Strategy and Plan
The team kicked off the campaign by targeting local print and broadcast media with a press release on the ‘alarming' rate at which landfill sites in West Sussex were filling up. It then laid out the proposals in detail, highlighting the fact that the extra rubbish would mean 40,000 extra heavy lorries on the county's roads every year.

Once local media had covered the debate, the press team's main task was to keep the story going. It created further discussion by publicising the fact that the council had passed an Emergency Notice of Motion condemning the move. It also responded to everyone who had written letters to their local newspapers, and made sure the issue was on the agenda of the meetings of its 14 county committees.

In one stunt, council leader Henry Smith threatened to pull out of the South East England Regional Assembly because of the proposals. The PR team presented this development to media as a controversial news story.

Finally, the capital's radio stations were targeted to ensure that Londoners were aware of how the plans had stirred up anger among West Sussex residents. Shots of landfill and waste disposal operations were made freely available to all media.

Measurement and Evaluation
TV coverage was achieved across southern BBC news regions, including a lead story on BBC South. Smith appeared in four prime-time TV interviews, two of them live on the BBC's Politics Show. BBC News Online also covered the campaign.

Locally, 19 news stories were generated across major regional and local papers, including the West Sussex Gazette, West Sussex County Times, and the Worthing Herald. There were two front-page leads, six page leads, seven editorials and seven readers' letters.

Radio coverage was largely local, comprising 14 live and pre-recorded interviews, including Capital Radio.

The campaign is ongoing, but according to the council, all coverage generated showed opinion to be heavily against the proposals. It claims opposition to the scheme - among local and district borough councils, as well as residents - to be ‘100 per cent'.

The assembly has yet to decide whether to take its proposal further.

Caroline Kingsmill, news editor at West Sussex-based Spirit FM, says: ‘This was a high-profile campaign that made imaginative use of media, at zero extra cost to the taxpayer.'

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