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The client

Extra MSA Group is a motorway service area (MSA) developer and operator in the UK who are driven by delivering excellent experiences for their visitors.

The challenge

Extra MSA wanted to develop a £50m motorway service area on the M1We were asked to create the narrative and benefits of the proposal, then communicate them to stakeholders across Leeds, with the aim of securing a positive planning decision from Leeds City Council and then effectively communicating through the construction process. 

Extra MSA’s preferred site was allocated for housing, with a lake, birds and wildlife nearby so they required extra support to make the case for their proposal 

The solution

We helped build relationships across the city region, identifying key stakeholders, and developing the best message for each to highlight the opportunities and address their concerns.  We created a project website, set-up and ran a series of community exhibitions around the site. 

We also produced and distributed a detailed consultation brochure that went to 11,000 local households and businesses.  Our input maintained strong relationships throughout the planning process, encouraged letters of support from key supporters, and kept elected members fully briefed.  

The RSPB had initially raised concerns about the impact on local wildlife, so they were brought into the project more closely as a critical friend to help develop the plans – and this directly resulted in a planned ‘hide’ being removed from the edges of the lake.  The RSPB were also offered space within the MSA for a visitor centre. 

As a result of ongoing face-to-face meetings and targeted messaging, support for the project was also secured from Roger Marsh, chairman of the Leeds LEP, local community organisation Friends of Rothwell Country Park, environmental group Swillington Ings Bird Group and two local MPs. 

The impact

Our expertise in political, stakeholder and community engagement, nurtured positive relationships with Leeds’ planning department and elected members.  Face-to-face meetings, update letters and ongoing briefings have ensured stakeholders have remained updated and supportive. 

Potential opposition from the RSPB was overcome and turned into active support through an open and collaborative approach.  Prompted by press releases from our PR team, media coverage has been wholly supportive throughout the project. 

When the application went before Leeds’ planning committee it was unanimously approved and the development has been held up by the Council as an example of a successful project that is being delivered in the region.   

Through the construction of the scheme, we provided regular updates to stakeholders and residents and highlighted positive milestones through regular media activity. We also produced a timelapse video of the construction project from across three camera locations around the site. 

Leeds Skelton Lake Services was opened successfully during COVID restrictions, as supportive infrastructure for key workers. It is now being recognised as one of the best motorway services in the country.