Severn Trent Water is one of the country’s largest utility companies and has responsibility for supply to the Birmingham city region. Birmingham receives the majority of its water from the Elan Valley Aqueduct, a pipeline 73 miles away in Wales.
Supporting water supply to England’s second city
Severn Trent Water drew up plans for an alternative supply for Birmingham that would reduce reliance on this pipeline. The Birmingham Resilience Project sees water abstracted from the River Severn and piped 26km under the Worcestershire countryside to a new treatment facility at the Frankley Water Treatment Works. It is the biggest civil engineering project ever undertaken by Severn Trent Water. As part of the sign off procedure from OFWAT, March 2020 was imposed as the completion date with heavy fines to be imposed by the regulator if the project was late.
We advised Severn Trent Water on all communications aspects of the project. This included briefing the relevant Government departments, parliamentarians and ministers to raise awareness of the scheme’s importance and an active role in the national and trade media promoting the project.
The focus then moved onto consulting in the local areas directly affected by the proposals. Construction would mean disruption for some communities. During the consultation process, the team had to deal with four separate planning authorities, dozens of directly affected MPs, councillors and parish councils and hundreds of concerned individual residents.
A two-stage consultation programme was delivered around a series of public exhibitions. Eighteen exhibitions were held in each phase. In the first phase, we presented a broad route corridor for the pipeline and tested opinion in those sections of the pipeline that were particularly controversial. This allowed us to work with affected communities to choose the least sensitive route. In several areas, Community Liaison Groups were set up to channel local views and act as a focus for discussions on acceptable solutions.
The second stage of consultation presented the final route prior to submission of a planning application. We also consulted hundreds of affected stakeholders based downstream of the abstraction point on the River Severn.
The application was submitted in 2016 and approved later in the year. Construction began in early 2017 and completion is expected by July 2019.