I’m still in shock! I was in shock when my name was called out at the awards and I’m still in shock now. It is a great honour and an amazing feeling to be given the title of CIRIA’s Biodiversity Champion, especially as judging was by votes cast by peers and the public. I am not often lost for words, as most of my colleagues will tell you, but on this occasion that is how I found myself.
I am very fortunate to have an amazing team that work with me, we work hard, have a lot of fun and delivery some wonderful things and the Southern Strategic Support Main has pretty much taken over our lives in the last two years. Legal, planning and mitigation requirements themselves are hard enough to deal with on a 31km pipeline across Somerset, with newts, dormice, bats, badgers, ancient woodland, hedgerows, ponds, rivers and invasive plants just to name of few of the constraints but not wanting to make lives easy for ourselves we came up with a wish list as well.
Our client for this project, Bristol Water, also has an environment team that like to push themselves and come up with ideas to enhance their network for wildlife, so I found little resistance when I came up with my wish list of things I thought we could deliver on a project this size. We started off with the usual small items such as bird and bats boxes and removing invasive species but we soon moved on to bigger and more ambitious items. So seeds we planted and items such as orchid translocation, citizen science owl box schemes, and school engagement programmes were discussed and agreed. The best thing is that these ideas all become realised. That brings me back to my team, but particularly to Grace Burdge who joined Kier to work on this project and who took on the challenge of every idea and helped deliver them at every stage, but also added her own (equally brilliant) ideas to help deliver a project that will leave an outstanding legacy for wildlife.
It’s not just wildlife that has received benefit from the project but also the local community and especially the younger generations. We engaged with local primary and secondary schools, local collages and university, giving a total of 520 students of all ages a change to visit the project, experience engineering and the environment, giving them the opportunity for onsite projects, building owl boxes and rearing eels to name but a few things. Rozy Gray, one of the university students has even joined the team.
The nice thing about utilities work is that although you make a temporary scar on the landscape, when the work is finished you have the opportunity to put things back as they were and enhance the habitat if you complete the work in a sensitive and thoughtful way. It is by showcasing this and working closely with clients, planners and even our own operational teams that we can demonstrate and inspire people to ‘do one thing’ or hopefully many things to improve biodiversity.
I hope by winning this award, I can not only encourage our teams within Kier to think bigger and better for biodiversity but also to many other businesses out there that want to do the right thing as well. Thank you to everyone who voted for me, I am extremely grateful and very proud.