Insights

Monday, 26th November 2018

Temple Launch Construction Forum in London

Following the success of our initial launch of Temple’s Construction Forum’s in the North West, Temple were keen to expand the debate in the South East. The Forums were created to create debate amongst different industries on the many difficulties facing Environmental Management in Construction. As Temple prepares to host its next Construction Forums in the North West and London (28th November and 5th December respectively), we asked our Account Director Terry O’Neill to explain why construction is faced with so many challenges:

Construction can be messy. And noisy. And unpleasant.

Living in the South East of England, and having lived previously in Hong Kong, there has rarely been a time in my working life where construction has not had an impact.

From something as simple as pavement closures, to the building of a new airport, all construction comes with an impact to local communities.

So what?

For many years the response of government and the construction industry has been just that – “So What”?  The benefits of what will be delivered (e.g. new roads, new homes) surely outweighs the inconvenience of disrupted travel, road closures, noise, air pollution, loss of amenity… surely these are outweighed by the benefits?

This may have been true in the past, but this can no longer be said of the present and future projects, and I think this is so for three main reasons: Scale, Awareness, Legacy:

Taking each in turn…

Scale

The London Motorway Box (also known as Ringway 1) was a much-vaunted scheme to improve road connectivity into London, planned in the 1960s.  It proved deeply unpopular and only parts of the scheme were ever built.  The effect on local communities became apparent quickly but the long-term impact on government planning was even more profound.  Since the early 1970s until the 1990s I am scratching my head to recall the delivery of any major infrastructure schemes.  Sizewell B nuclear power station came ‘online’ in 1995, Jubilee Line Extension in 1999, but in terms of wider and larger schemes, they appear few and far between.

Fast forward to the early 2000s – sport and sporting venues have become fashionable as a method of leading regeneration in urban locations.  Surprisingly – London was selected as the venue for the Olympics in 2012, which led to a large-scale upgrade of public transport in London, as well as regeneration of parts of east London.  Delivered at a cost of £9.3 bn subsequent opinion polls have indicated a public approval rating of 66%.  Linked to this was the delivery of the new HS1 high speed rail line between the English Channel and London (cost: £11bn).

Next off the blocks was Crossrail.  Nearly scuppered by the Coalition government in 2010, the project is now on its way to completion at a cost of £16 billion.

What these examples show (and there are many others) is that the UK has found its confidence to once again plan and deliver large-scale infrastructure in the UK.  The scale of these is increasing, but this means so too is the cost.  And that can store up problems…

Awareness

Dear reader if any of you are not reading this article on a smart phone or tablet, I will be truly surprised.  Most of us have access to social media platforms and these are used by mainstream media to create news reporting.  Witness the high levels of public awareness of the next high-speed rail project (HS2) and the impacts that will be felt across most of the UK.  Many of the construction companies I talk to understand that surrounding a construction site with 3-metre high hoarding does very little to aid community support for the construction.  HS2 now use its road supervisors to act as “ambassadors” to talk to members of the public when not supervising traffic.  A small, but perhaps enterprising step to aid awareness of construction projects but in a positive way?

Legacy

Infrastructure is generally something that is done “to” communities, not “with” communities.  If this can be reversed, construction will be perceived as less of an impediment and more of an enabler for co-created value for communities and residents.  As a result, communities will be able to make more positive inputs in support of those schemes where they can see the benefits.  This may take the form of improved amenities (e.g. schools, green spaces), improved access, reduced congestion, more affordable housing.  Allowing such an interface will improve scheme credibility and – most importantly – create a groundswell of support for future schemes.

In our forums we will hear from Network Rail as to the challenges of stakeholder engagement for the Ordsall Chord project, and also from Barking Riverside and creating new communities alongside existing ones.  Identifying lessons learned for both major infrastructure and housing development will be a key outcome.  Details on the event are below:

Title: London Construction Forum

Date/ Time: Wednesday 5th December, 8am registration (8.30am start)

Speakers: Matt Carpen, Barking Riverside

Colin Wilson, Southwark Council

Venue: Temple’s London Office

If you would like to attend please confirm and include any dietary requirements with Lheah Zorlakkis at lheah.zorlakkis@templegroup.co.uk or 020 7394 3700 by Friday 30th November.