As austerity and the government’s pinch on public funding continues, it is evident that the social impacts infrastructure projects can and should have on the local societies we live and work in should be at the forefront of infrastructure delivery in the UK.
The ACE Progress Network Mersey Gateway Panel Debate attracted 40 enthusiastic built and natural environment professionals to Liverpool for the much-anticipated panel debate, an evening sponsored by Ramboll.
The event was held at Blackburne House, a beautiful Grade II listed building situated in the Hope Street Quarter of Liverpool. This was seen as a fitting venue to discuss social value (benefits to society) of infrastructure projects given the buildings use as a centre of education for women and one of the UK’s leading social enterprises.
The event started with an introduction of the ACE Progress Network by the network's regional chair, Hamish Dunlop who highlighted the importance of emerging professionals getting involved in the progress network and the opportunities available on the North West committee.
Mungo Stacy (WSP), the panel chair launched the debate with a safety pause on Health & Wellbeing in the workplace and by introducing Claire Hall (Ramboll), Tracy Fishwick (Transform Lives Company), Toria Buzza (ForHousing & We Make Places) and Paul Fenwick (Mersey Gateway Crossings Board Ltd).
The panel debate was soon in full flow enabling an engaging discussion between the audience and panel giving an insight into the importance of community engagement and ensuring infrastructure projects create a lasting legacy.
It was clear from the outset that Halton Borough Council’s vision was to maximise regional development and create economic prosperity for the surrounding areas however, it was evident that the toll system has left some negativity, with particular concern given to those from less affluent areas not having the social mobility a bridge should offer! This begs the question of whether a smart ticketing approach, similar to that outlined in the ACE Funding Roads for the Future Report would be better suited than the current system.
Other concerns were raised regarding the lack of community engagement at grass roots level on major infrastructure projects, particularly HS2, with ideas of engaging the people through the people by using schools and community ambassadors to stimulate community involvement.
Social value was at the heart of the discussion and emerging professionals left excited by the positive impacts their work should and can make in the surrounding regions.
Hamish Dunlop is an Assistant Engineer with WSP UK and the regional chair of Progress Network North West.