Centrica Gas Storage Caverns
Project: Aldbrough Gas Storage Caverns
Skills: Planning and public affairs, stakeholder engagement, media relations
The prospect of having huge gas storage caverns on the doorstep of your quiet seaside village would understandably cause major concern for residents. After all, gas stored in confined chambers, well some might believe that was a recipe for an explosion. It turned out that’s what lots of people thought and Intergen UK, who were developing the gas storage caverns on behalf of Centrica, knew this only too well. As far as their public was concerned, this was a proposal that would damage their community, damage their local environment and even put their lives at risk.
They decided to enlist the help of a local PR company to engage with the community, explain the technology in a way they could understand, and reassure them that it was entirely safe. The company was us.
We set about a grassroots public affairs campaign that was sensitive and sympathetic in tone, yet informative and gave people the chance to air their fears. This was essentially in fostering a feeling that whatever the outcome, they had been listened to.
The strategy involved extensive face-to-face talks with those stakeholders who could influence the decision: parish councillors, individual protagonists, county councillors and officials, MPs, and neighbouring land-owners.
We spoke to these individuals and groups over several months, staged public events and exhibitions, distributing literature, briefed the press and answered any misinformation the media published. Over time, these lines of communication combined to help ease their fears of local people, landowners and officials.
The success of our argument lay in reassuring the local community it posed no danger to their homes, the environment and their lives, and that there were local employment opportunities that for a community that relied principally on tourism and farming. Then, we had to show it was a project of national importance; a vital source of gas to maintain heat and power to the country’s businesses and homes. We wanted to make local residents aware that by supporting the development, they were doing their bit in helping to keep the country’s lights on.
While not everyone accepted these arguments, we achieved our objective and helped our client achieve the necessary permissions to complete the project.
Now, Aldbrough gas storage caverns are an accepted part of the community, a source of local employment and to many, a source of local pride. Although it took a significant amount of time, InterGen UK, with the help of tprc., managed to reassure a whole community that not only did their development pose no threat, it would bring long term benefits.