Listening to communities is at the heart of effective community liaison. It’s not just explaining what you’re going to do. It’s also about listening to what people tell you and being flexible enough to make modifications where you are able. It’s a little bit of give and take.
Community liaison in Alton
Just before Christmas 2019, we achieved formal completion of the Butts Bridge infrastructure scheme for Homes England in Alton. The project was necessary in part, due to the impacts from the requirement to meet future local housing needs. The most significant element of the contract was to replace a Victorian brick-arch railway bridge that caused a local bottleneck and increase the capacity of the junction for through traffic. Aside from demolishing an iconic structure that the community was deeply attached to, a full road closure was necessary over a period of approximately 10 months, for which the diversion route was relatively lengthy and unpopular with some residents. Knights Brown was responsible for leading on community liaison throughout.
Before we started work, we held a community drop in session in the town, where we displayed largescale plans of the proposed works and diversion routes. In addition to members of our site team being present to meet local people and respond to questions, representatives from the designer Jubb, and the client’s representative, Aecom also attended.
We set up a dedicated website, social media channel and email address:
Based on feedback from the drop in session, we were able to make some minor modifications to the proposed local diversion route.
Prior to the road closure being put in, letters detailing the diversion routes and full impact of the scheme were issued across Alton and liaison meetings were held with affected stakeholders such as the community hospital, doctors’ surgery, leisure centre and cricket club. We also liaised with the Road Hauliers Association as HGVs were required to divert via Farnham and the M3.
Updates were made to the project information detailed on the website in response to feedback and questions we were regularly asked. As phase changes are introduced in the traffic management arrangements or other information was released, electronic updates were issued from the website. The public was able to subscribe to receive these automatically on release.
We maintained liaison throughout with the town and county councillors, residents’ association and local police sergeant, and held bi-monthly meetings with the same. Through these we were able to sustain a regular flow of information so that all parties understood the current situation and were kept up to date with developments.
During our works we sought to engage positively with all parts of the community and responded personally to all enquiries.
Examples of the social value we contributed and our engagement activities include:
Our sub-agent attended several assemblies at Eggar’s School to promote construction and civil engineering as a positive career choice.
He then returned with more of our graduate engineers to conduct a practical session for STEM students demonstrating construction equipment, techniques and tasks.
Our site team hosted three groups of students from Chawton Primary School who visited the site as part of Technology Week. We then went back into school at the end of the week to judge their bridge building competition and award prizes.
One of our graduate engineers visited the 3rd Alton Cub Pack to present on and discuss managing environmental issues on construction sites, to help the cubs achieve their Environmental Conservation Activity badges.
Creating a legacy through support, engagement and investment
We act to have a positive impact on communities and build good relations with local people. This includes a response to bringing social and economic benefits to local areas and encouraging future generations into construction careers by building on our connections with schools, colleges and universities.
We define our legacy by:
Providing great employment opportunities and inspiring the next generation of construction workers. Knights Brown is one of the founding employers of the Civil Engineering Groundworks Apprenticeship (CEGA) at Fareham College, which now feeds a regular stream of apprentices into our business. We provide opportunities for apprentices to visit contracts during their 20-week site preparation programme, deploy those we take on to our sites for the duration of their apprenticeship and offer permanent employment on successful completion. CEGA was judged ‘Apprentice Initiative of the Year’ at the prestigious Constructing Excellence SECBE Awards in 2018. In 2019 Knights Brown was awarded Skills Leader of the Year at the NCE Top 100 Awards.
Promoting equality between women and men and equal opportunities for all. CEGA has brought us our first female apprentice groundworker in 2019. Eve is 20 years old and is getting experience on sites ranging from roadworks on the A303 to groundworks for the MOD at Tidworth Camp.
Continuing to build on our links with universities and colleges across southern England and Wales, investing in and developing future local talent for the construction industry. Our industry recognised training and development programmes support the technical and professional growth of our emerging talent. In 2018, one of our young engineers was named CECA South West’s Most Promising Trainee.
Unlocking potential through equal opportunity for jobseekers and economically inactive people. We integrate young people into the labour market through work experience, summer placements, apprenticeships, and employment. We work with employment support agencies and voluntary community and social enterprises, actively seeking to include disadvantaged people furthest from the labour market by removing barriers.
Engaging with organisations in the voluntary sector to bring local benefits through our employer supported volunteering scheme. We encourage volunteer work in the community, donating expertise and materials to help deliver important projects for local people. In the summer of 2019, volunteers from our Gatwick Airport Framework team donated their time to regenerate the outdoor space at Orpheus Centre in Surrey. The centre increases the confidence and skills of young disabled adults through the performing arts.
‘I cannot thank you and your team enough for the hard work and determination yesterday. You were an outstanding group, good fun and incredibly hard working. I can’t believe what you achieved in a day. I’ve just spent five minutes this morning staring at the fence in total disbelief! Thank you so much for the tools, they will be put to good use today by our next volunteer group……we now have to think about what they can do as your team managed to do their planned jobs yesterday. We all had an amazing day with you all and would welcome you all back as soon as it is feasible… I’m hoping your still all in one piece and the blisters won’t take too long to mend.
Warmest regards, Kerry, Orpheus Centre
Contributing to the local economy by actively encouraging small medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to be part of our projects. We champion the established supply chains local to each of our offices, involve social enterprises, and invoke participation and relationship building to enhance regional economic growth and create fair, diverse and inclusive supply chains. Over the lifetime of Hampshire County Council’s Generation 3 Framework, 80% of our expenditure was with local SMEs.
In developing our community liaison and social and economic benefits strategy, we work closely to embed our customer’s specific objectives making sure we are aligned and that our involvement supports their aspirations, leaving a legacy of investment in the local economy, education, training, community engagement and cohesion.