The regeneration initiatives from Sea Change and its partners aim to boost the East Sussex economy, bringing much-needed jobs, homes and prosperity to the community. They involve the development of business parks, offices and the roads to access them – all designed to attract expanding employers to the area.

But this programme has faced determined opposition from a group of anti-development protesters who believe it’s having an unacceptable impact on the environment and would prefer to stop change in the area.

They’ve waged an organised campaign over several years, attempting to turn public opinion against the regeneration programme and the organisations – and individuals – behind it.

They’ve used the media to spread dissent. They’ve lodged high court challenges to the schemes. And, at the start of the construction of roads and premises, they’ve brought the programme to crisis points by physically obstructing progress – locking themselves to trees and diggers and occupying tunnels dug into the ground.

What we’ve done

We’ve taken pains to listen to all community views about the regeneration programme, and the regeneration partners have put many measures in place to protect the environment. But we’ve also been careful to avoid getting side-tracked by minority dissent – however loudly expressed – against schemes which have been democratically agreed (via the local authorities’ Local Plans and planning committees) to be in the community’s interests.

We’ve helped provide robust commentary to the media, refuting false claims and presenting a strong account of the advantages of the regeneration schemes. We’ve stuck to a small number of consistent messages about the big picture – the long-term advantages the regeneration programme will bring.

We’ve helped the client’s main spokespeople deliver these messages with clarity, consistency and confidence, couching comments in simple language about community benefits rather than technical policy terms.

We’ve rallied support from people in favour of the developments – especially the client’s partners and prominent members of the business community.

And, whenever a scheme has produced positive results such as occupancy by good employers, we’ve communicated this as proactively as possible to provide tangible proof of the benefits of the programme.

The results

We were never going to change the protesters’ minds, but the wider community is another matter.

We’ve helped give a clear, convincing account of the purpose behind the regeneration programme and robustly defend our client from opponents’ vociferous attacks.

In the early days, the protesters managed to attract many followers and much media attention and fostered the impression of being environmental protectors commanding a groundswell of support.

It’s now clear they’re lone voices standing against progress and increasingly at odds with the mainstay of public opinion. And the regeneration programme is moving full-steam ahead.

The client’s view

“As Leader of East Sussex County Council, I’ve seen just how effective TK Associates have been in guiding our PR efforts for our regeneration programme over nearly a decade.

During this time, they’ve helped us avoid many pitfalls and put forward a positive, convincing case for an often-controversial £500 million development programme. This involved galvanising support including that of the media and key opinion formers.

Tariq in particular has advised us on how to deal effectively with highly organised protest groups who opposed the construction of new roads and business premises, enlisting the support of local businesses and other groups to counter the loud and often violent voices of a tiny minority.

TK Associates are thoroughly professional and strong on both strategic and tactical advice – an agency that’s good to have on your side in a tough situation.”

Peter Jones CBE, Leader, East Sussex County Council, 2001-13


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