With multiple wind farm sites under consideration in Scotland, it was crucial for family-owned Banks Renewables to see a first project steered successfully through the planning process.
The most likely to be greenlighted was thought to be Quixwood Moor, a proposed 13 turbine, 29.9MW wind farm in the Scottish Borders.
However, the application was dealt a blow in July 2012 when planning officials at Scottish Borders Council wrote to companies behind six proposed wind farms – including Quixwood Moor – advising that all would be recommended for rejection.
Getting Quixwood Moor approved was business critical to Banks Renewables and to its other sites across Scotland.
Holyrood PR was already a month into a PR campaign to build awareness of the company’s development with care” credentials.
However, it was agreed the campaign would be refocused on Quixwood and intensified in the run-up to the planning hearing to bolster community support for the wind farm.
Persuading Scottish Borders Council to ignore the advice of its officials and instead approve Quixwood Moor was business critical to Banks Renewables.
It would give the company its first approved wind farm in Scotland and would represent a £35 million investment.
A vital part of the campaign was to ensure the firm’s messages about the benefits of wind farms would not be crowded out by a small-yet-vocal anti-development minority.
To do this it was essential to identify and promote independent, third-party advocates who would champion the cause of Quixwood Moor and its benefits to the local community.
We agreed the following objectives to measure the success of the campaign:
- 10 items of local coverage in the run-up to the meeting
- Ensure Key Messages (KM) were used in 75% of coverage
- Include positive comments from independent, local supporters in 35% of coverage.
- Shape a positive planning outcome, enhancing Banks Renewables’ reputation as a considerate and responsible developer.
What we did
Our campaign identified local companies to champion the business benefits of the project, while promoting an innovative apprenticeship scheme to address concerns about lack of jobs and training in the area.
We also highlighted a series of ecological and environmental stories, such as a reforestation plan and protection of a popular walking route.
Beyond that we identified human interest stories from local groups being supported with generous grants and donations.
The nature of the rural community surrounding the site meant the battle for hearts and minds would take place in the influential local media – yet with only a small number of titles it was crucial to avoid media fatigue.
With 10 months to influence the planning decision as positively as possible we ensured a planned and phased release of positive stories, with greatest intensity immediately before the crucial committee meeting.