Read the latest in our series of blogs looking ahead to the upcoming May local elections, as Senior Account Executive Billy Holmes reviews the battle in Nuneaton.
Current status: CON majority (25 Conservative, 6 Labour, 2 Independents, 1 Green)
Elections for Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council will take place on Thursday (5 May 2022), giving residents the power to decide who will represent them and deliver local services.
Given this borough’s recent political history, voters in these market towns and surrounding villages are uniquely positioned to make their voices heard at a national level, should they rebel.
Before boundary changes in 2002, the council had 45 seats and was dominated by the Labour Party: they held between 35 and 41 of these seats between 1998 and 2000 (Tony Blair’s first premiership)
The 2002 changes significantly reduced the total number of seats on the council (to 34) and, on Thursday 2 May 2002, Labour’s majority was cut from 25 to 18. The game was afoot.
Since then, the Council has swung with the national mood of the country. Labour remained the majority party until 2008 when the Conservatives gained an additional three seats – bringing them up to 18 – and the British National Party made a surprise appearance.
Voters then swung back to Labour in 2010, which continued to dominate elections in 2012, 2014 and 2016, exactly seven weeks before 66% of residents voted to leave the EU. In the wake of this result, it should come as little surprise that Labour lost eight seats in 2018. However, they still remained the majority party until last year, when their share of the vote collapsed. Labour ended up with just 20.6% of the vote and lost 10 councillors. The Conservatives, on the other hand, received 70.6% and gained 8, leaving them with 24 seats to Labour’s seven.
Although all three of the borough’s local MPs are Conservatives – and two have been in office since 2010 – only a year has passed since Conservative councillors received the lion’s share of the votes (and seats) there. Nationally, the party continues to be rocked by a series of scandals.
Given there has been very little change in turnout over the past few years, voters have shown themselves to be highly changeable. With Labour and the Conservatives standing candidates in all 17 wards, alongside 15 Green Party candidates and 5 Independents, each will be hotly contested. Half of the council’s seats are up for grabs next Thursday.
A significant swing away from the Conservative Party here would be a damning indictment of the Government that they would do well to take seriously.
With more fines reportedly on their way to No. 10, Conservative councillors across the country have been attempting to distance themselves from the national party. There’s a lot at stake in Nuneaton and Bedworth. It’ll be interesting to see how local councillors deal with voters’ questions on ‘party gate’ and the cost-of-living crisis on the doorstep.
Will residents punish local councillors at the ballot box for their national counterparts’ behaviour or allow them another couple of years to show what they can do now they are the majority party?
If previous elections are anything to go by, with the national mood in the country swinging towards Labour, this is going to be a key battleground. If Keir Starmer wants to become Prime Minister in two years’ time, this is exactly the part of middle England that he has to win back. Will he?
Time will tell.
Birmingham is in the midst of a renaissance. Once the workshop of the world, the city experienced a period of relative economic and social decline over the last century. In recent years however, the fortunes of the city have changed, and investors, developers, and international businesses are viewing Birmingham as a safe bet for investment. Joseph Moore, Account Manager at Copper Consultancy, discusses what the future holds for the city.
It is safe to say that Birmingham’s future as a business destination is not in doubt. The city has become a leading commercial hub for major organisations including PwC, Goldman Sachs, BT, Atkins, and Arup. The wealth of names taking up residence in Birmingham is testament to the city’s provision of attractive commercial space and affordability.
Commercial office space
The provision of Grade A office space is transforming Birmingham city centre. Take 103 Colmore Row for instance, which now dominates the skyline and offers 230,084 sq ft of office space. Practical completion of the 26-storey high-rise tower is due to be completed in November 2021. Just a stone’s throw away, the Paradise Development is delivering one of the UK’s largest city centre developments with the construction of One Chamberlain Square, Two Chamberlain Square and One Centenary Way. These projects are delivering more than just workspace; they’re creating internationally renowned destinations.
Multinational professional services provider, PWC, seized on the opportunity to pre-let One Chamberlain Square, which will house 2,000 members of staff. Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, will move its established Birmingham office to Paradise by taking 36,000 sq ft of space across two floors on a fifteen-year lease overlooking the very heart of the city and Chamberlain Square.
These major businesses have not only cemented their presence in Birmingham but have demonstrated the continued importance of having a base of operations in a vibrant city with growth potential.
Housing and regeneration
Birmingham’s housing boom can be seen wherever you are in the city. Hoardings have sprung up from Ladywood to Balsall Heath and planning applications are being submitted at breakneck speed. While developers such as Galliard Homes are leading the charge in the private sector, Birmingham City Council are placing investments in housing at the heart of their agenda. Earlier this year the council announced that it was investing £62m to increase the sustainable supply of affordable homes throughout the city.
The continued growth trajectory of the city is attracting an increasing number of people – particularly from London – because the job opportunities and lifestyle on offer are so attractive. This inevitably brings an increase in demand for housing and premium rental properties.
This has spurred on investment from developers such as Moda Living who have been drawn to Birmingham’s booming property market. Their latest development on Broad Street, The Mercian, will see 481 homes delivered across 42 storeys. Meanwhile, Cordia Blackswan recently unveiled their vision for the Jewellery Quarter’s Great Hampton Street, which will see 50 high end apartments delivered at the former Gothic Pub, the construction of the Lamp Works BTR development, and the Bradford Works living HMO scheme.
Regenerating the city
Major construction and regeneration projects are unlocking Birmingham’s untapped potential and fueling further interest from prospective developers and investors. While private investment is no doubt critical to the future success of the city centre, the City Council is keen to ensure that areas which have witnessed chronic underinvestment are not further left behind.
The council recently made a successful bid for the Levelling Up Fund, where it secured £52m in new funding. The funding will help deliver the restoration of Moseley Road Baths and Balsall Heath Library, the remediation of the former Birmingham Wheels Site (Bordesley Park) and the A457 Dudley Road improvements.
In 2019, Copper Consultancy asked the people of Birmingham whether they felt they were benefitting from development in the city. Only 47% of individuals felt they were benefiting. Projects overseen by Birmingham City Council to drive regeneration in forgotten areas, are critical to ensuring that everyone feels included and feels the benefits of Birmingham’s boom years.
A bright future
Since 1839, ‘Forward’ has been Birmingham’s official motto and is proudly displayed on our coat of arms. Today, Birmingham continues its proud march forward, attracting world-class investment, developing inspired housing projects, and continuing to act as a creative hub. Birmingham is booming, that is clear for all to see. And while we forge a new path for our city, we must ensure that individuals and communities are not left behind.
For people to feel they are reaping the rewards of this development, it is vital that the long-term advantages of construction outweigh the short-term inconveniences. We have a bright future ahead of us and we must champion this story. Failing to do so could create a two-speed city, with those reaping the rewards of investment and those caught in the shadow of development.
73% of those polled in 2019 said they were optimistic about Birmingham’s future. Two years on, there is scope for us to do even better and harness the boom and drive that number higher. Our job isn’t finished until everyone feels optimistic about the future of the city we call home.
If you’d like to discuss Birmingham’s development future, please contact Joseph.Moore@CopperConsultancy.com
The global pandemic has reshaped the active travel agenda and forced local authorities to reconsider their investment strategies for cleaner, greener transportation. Fiona Woolston, Group Account Director (Midlands) at Copper Consultancy, discusses the future of active travel in Birmingham.
Throughout the pandemic the popularity of cycling, walking and running skyrocketed. COVID-19 brought about a dramatic increase in the sale of bicycles as heightened anxiety over the use of public transport led to individuals seeking alternatives, resulting in the subsequent ‘bike-boom’.
The ‘bike boom’
Retailers reportedly struggled to keep up with burgeoning demand, with sales of bicycles in January of 2021 up 41 per cent on 2020, a similar pattern of growth to the 45 per cent recorded throughout 2020 according to the Bicycle Association.
As restrictions eased earlier this year, many of us returned to travel, to complete the daily commute, undertake the school run, and for leisure. The question that is front-of mind for transport planners and city authorities now, is how to take advantage of this turning point and the demand for active travel measures in towns and cities.
The search for funding
The UK Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy sets out to promote active travel, resulting in lower carbon emissions, promoting active lifestyles, and reducing congestion. Despite this ambition, many local communities are not equipped to make such significant changes in behaviour, with funding and lack of public support being a primary issue.
There are small steps which are being undertaken across the country. Take the awarding of £2 million to Birmingham 2022’s Active Travel Legacy Package by the Department for Transport in July 2021 for instance. The package aims to target the West Midlands’ most disadvantaged areas to encourage more people to cycle as a healthy, eco-friendly mode of transport.
More recently (September 2021), the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Board approved bids to the Government’s City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) fund and Bus Service Improvement Plan fund worth up to £2 billion. This would see the region benefit from 16 new cycle routes, further developing the Starley Network – including the extension of the A38 cycleway to Longbridge and Kersley to Coventry city centre.
The tide is undoubtedly turning in favour of cleaner, greener modes of transport. The recent introduction of Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) and the ongoing consultations surrounding Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) in Kings Heath and Moseley demonstrate that this is not an issue that is likely to go away any time soon. But, at its core, the debate often centres around a lack of public consultation on such measures. It is not the case that individuals are opposed to safer access to walking and cycling routes, rather, their anger and frustration stems from having not been provided the opportunity to raise their concerns or to voice support for alternative measures.
Local communities should be provided with an adequate say in what active travel provisions look like, where they are deployed and how they are to be used. This means ensuring that individuals within a community are consulted and their feedback considered. Planners need to directly engage with communities through open and honest dialogue to explore their wants and needs. They need to bring the public with them as spaces are re-imagined and restructured. Keeping channels of communication open, through digital engagement and regular consultation, means that communities will feel more as if these changes are not only happening ‘to’ them but happening ‘for’ them.
Copper is well versed in the art of supporting organisations in engaging with public and private stakeholders, particularly on sensitive projects. In July 2021, Copper supported National Highways (formerly Highways England) in the delivery of its public community impacts consultation for the Lower Thames Crossing, helping to understand the concerns of the public and providing individuals with a voice in the process.
While investments in active travel measures may be on a smaller scale, the process of community engagement is much the same. No matter the size of the project, individuals need to be taken on the planning and delivery journey.
Concern from the likes of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce around the impact on businesses is indicative of the business challenges ahead. The Birmingham City Council will need to generate buy-in and ensure that organisations and individuals are provided with a voice as these changes are rolled out.
The future of active travel in Birmingham and the wider UK is still very much up for discussion. Only time will tell whether the ‘bike-boom’ experienced over the last two years will subside, or whether we are looking at the future of sustainable transportation in our towns and cities.
In Birmingham at least, the story looks to be steering towards the latter as Birmingham City Council unveils The Birmingham Transport Plan 2031 which aims to transform the city via the creation of a network of pedestrianised streets and public spaces. In addition, active travel in local neighbourhoods will be prioritised for people making short journeys.
If you want to find out more about how Copper can generate social advocacy for transport schemes, please contact Fiona.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carol Stitchman, Technical Director Rail Group, WSP
In Copper’s Perspectives series on UK rail stations, we’re asking construction sector leaders for their insights on challenges and opportunities arising from the new ‘golden age’ of station development.
Following on from her role as a panelist in Copper Consultancy’s recent event, Insights from a new golden age of rail stations, Carol provides a behind-the-scenes account of modern station design and accessibility.
The redeveloped Birmingham New Street Station opened in September 2015 after a £750 million transformation. Carol’s work at Birmingham New Street spanned 14 years from feasibility to completion.
As Head of Design for Network Rail, I worked to transform Birmingham New Street station into a major transport and shopping hub, stimulating economic growth and regeneration for the Midlands region. Today, Birmingham New Street is the busiest major station outside of London.
At the heart of the development of Birmingham New Street is inclusive design. Inclusive design aims to deliver spaces and places for everyone and puts people at the core? of the design process of spaces and places. In the development of Birmingham New Street, we worked with stakeholder panels to help us develop spaces that were truly inclusive, ensuring that people were at the centre of the design process, so everyone can use the railway safely, easily and with dignity.
We did a lot of work around accessibility with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), one of the UK’s leading sight loss charities and the largest community of blind and partially sighted people. A key priority for us was how could we make Birmingham New Street station a lot easier to navigate for the visually impaired.
The RNIB suggested that most members would want to first and foremost be able to access and navigate to the ticket office simply to buy tickets and or seek assistance for travel. To do this in a vast area, we located the ticket office in the centre of the station. In this area, we included a contrasting floor surface in the centre of the station in the atrium. We referred to this as a ‘pebble in the pond’, and the flooring in this area, glass blocks, differentiated texturally with the granite surface around it. If you are sweeping your cane in that area, you can feel the change in texture helping you to identify exactly where you are in the station.
We also included sensory aroma cues to act as a navigational aid in the centre of the station. The Pret a Manger coffee shop which has a distinctive smell has been deliberately placed centrally by the textured flooring to act as another navigational instruction for our visually impaired travellers and visitors. Both sensory indicators are designed to tell visually impaired customers that they are in the centre of the station and the ticket office is located right in front of them.
There are three distinct entrances into Birmingham New Street station, and we also created a ‘shoreline’ to help with access into the station. Shorelines are an important element of how a visually impaired person navigates. Shore lining is following a wall, kerb, hedge or other contrasting surface to the one a person is walking on to maintain a specific orientation while travelling through environments to arrive at a decision-making point. Shore lining allows a person to use their cane either to constantly contact a surface or use two-point touch technique to cross an open space and easily travel towards the station.
From speaking to visually impaired groups interviewed early in the design stage, we found that they often counted the number of steps to help them navigate themselves from point A to point B, so we placed positioned lighting columns in particular locations along the shoreline at the eastern entrance opposite the Bullring and a certain distance apart, so they acted as another helpful navigational aid.
Looking to future station developments in the city, the future HS2 Curzon Street Station in Birmingham – which, when built, will be the first brand new intercity terminus built in Britain since the 19th century – is unique, as it has a lot of landscaping around it which is very unusual for a railway station in a city centre location.
One distinct feature of the Curzon Street Station design is the change of levels from the different entrances from the east of the west. One question we asked ourselves when designing this new station is how we could help our visually impaired passengers navigate through each entrance/exit, so they know which entrance they are approaching.
To help announce to visually impaired passengers which entrance they are arriving towards, we asked our landscape architects to introduce scented landscaping that would differ at each entrance/exit to help with navigation, and we also included shorelines into the design, like at Birmingham New Street. Shorelines at Curzon Street include the buttresses that are part of the architectural design that support the roof.
In the Curzon Street design, a customer information hub has replaced the traditional ticket office. Following feedback from visually impaired groups, this is placed directly at the front of the station western entrance and not at a right angle to the main entrance. Obstacle detection and warning can improve the mobility, as well as the safety of visually impaired people especially in unfamiliar environments.
Based on our increased understanding and consideration of wellbeing and mental health awareness, a new element has been incorporated in the Curzon Street Station design to help our passengers who perhaps are not comfortable in large crowds. Large transport buildings like railway stations and airports attract large numbers of people, however for some, this is not a comfortable situation to be in. We incorporated quiet rooms in the design where people can retreat from the crowds. For passengers who would prefer not to be inside at all, the Curzon Street station design has a large public square to the western entrance with the opportunity to create areas outside where they can wait in a place of safety and be under cover, sheltered from the sun and the rain.
Accessibility in station design must be a priority. Taking a journey by train is not as straightforward process for all passengers. Passengers have unique needs, therefore, it’s vitally important that this is taken into consideration in station design. Speaking directly to groups that use our stations means we have a better understanding of how we can design infrastructure that is accessible and inclusive for everyone, ensuring that all passengers can use and move through the station safely and independently.
Carol Stitchman, Technical Director Rail Group, WSP has worked in the railway industry for over 20 years. Major projects under Carol’s belt include Birmingham New Street station where she was Head of Design and led the design for the station redevelopment. Following her award-winning work at Birmingham New Street for Network Rail, Carol went on to work for WSP as a Technical Director in the Rail Group division.
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Hala Lloyd, Lead Architect for the Phase One Area North stations, HS2 Ltd
In Copper’s Perspectives series on UK rail stations, we’re asking construction sector leaders for their insights on challenges and opportunities arising from the new ‘golden age’ of station development.
Following on from her role as a panelist in Copper Consultancy’s recent event, Insights from a new golden age of rail stations, Hala highlights the importance of major station developments leaving behind a positive and lasting legacy.
In her role as HS2 Lead Architect, Hala will help deliver the station buildings and public realm at both Curzon Street Station and Interchange Station. A key element of her work includes leading design engagement with the independent design review panel and key local stakeholders.
I have been fortunate enough to help deliver some notable station developments in the UK. I now support HS2, the largest infrastructure project in the UK since the Victorian age and one of the most prominent in Europe. In its entirety, the project will include 345 miles of new high-speed track connecting Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and London.
HS2 will connect 30 million people and eight of our largest cities, with 25 stops from Scotland to the southeast. My role is to help bring forward the Phase One station buildings and public realm at both Curzon and Interchange in Birmingham and Solihull, respectively. While station functionality is crucial to the project, it is also essential to consider where they are and how they will impact current and future generations living nearby.
Our design vision for Curzon and Interchange aimed to secure a lasting legacy right from the outset. Our plans are underpinned by three pillars that informs our design approach, guidance and station requirements. Firstly, people will use the stations, so we must ensure that everyone benefits from and enjoys our design. Secondly, we recognise the importance of place. We have developed designs that make the stations a destination and somewhere people want to be, not merely a means to travel. Thirdly, we want our stations to last for a long time while benefiting their local communities. To hold our local stakeholders and us to account, an independent design review panel regularly measures our progress against these fundamental principles.
We are also keen that our stations designs align with local strategies. For Curzon, we have collaborated with Birmingham City Council to identify five key moves required to embed the station in its setting. This will enable future regeneration to take place in this part of the city. We are supporting Urban Growth Company and Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council with their plan for regional growth in the UK Central Hub. We want Interchange to become a major catalyst for economic growth there, bringing together the NEC campus, Birmingham Airport, Arden Cross, Jaguar Land Rover and Birmingham Business Park.
We have established some twenty-first century game-changing design requirements for Curzon and Interchange, aiming to create a lasting legacy.
Firstly, we have set out to ensure safety considerations span the lifetime of the stations, all the way from design to deconstruction. To meet this goal, our stations designers have looked to maximise an off-site manufacturing and, pre-fabrication mode of construction.
To set new benchmarks for equality, diversity and inclusivity, we are ensuring high standards permeate through design requirements, engagement, activities and delivery. As a result, we are already driving diverse and inclusive outcomes. For example, we have set mandatory requirements above current industry guidance for inclusive customer experience, including gender-neutral toilets, adult changing places, facilities for guide dogs and faith and quiet rooms.
The final key design requirement is to build sustainable stations to help the UK meet its commitment to become a net-zero economy by 2050. Consequently, we have set a BREAAM target of ‘Excellent’ for all stations, placing them in the top 10% of UK buildings. We have also established a requirement for all stations to reduce carbon emissions by 50% compared to the Phase 1 baseline assessments. Again, our station designers have responded to our challenges. ARUP exceeded our target by achieving a BREAAM ‘Outstanding’ certification for Interchange. This is a global first for any train station and puts it in the top 1% of UK buildings to achieve this rating at design stage.
We endeavour to leave a lasting legacy by upskilling Britain. We have already begun to meet this aspiration and intend to keep up our strong start. To start with, at peak construction, we will need 30,000 people to design and build HS2, including over 2,000 apprentices. More than 2,000 businesses have already delivered work on HS2, and 70% are SME’s. Throughout this project, we will always aim to maximise training and employment opportunities both at HS2 and in our extensive supply chain. This will not be exclusive to the south either, with employment opportunities available along the entire Phase 1 and 2 routes.
Community engagement and art and culture are of fundamental importance to the station projects and their legacy. Thus, we have sought to embed creative design thinking in developing and delivering our stations from the beginning. Additionally, we have engaged with local communities in the design stages for both stations to maximise inclusivity. Our engagement involves many activities and spans HS2 and our supply chain, including leafletting to homes, engagement events, displays, and interactive presentations.
Our engagement has generated a tremendous amount of feedback, especially on the design of the stations. The key messages we developed around Curzon and Interchange adhered to peoples’ opinions on external landscaping, diverse environments and heritage. The feedback has also been absolutely invaluable in helping our designers to progress the projects. While we have held thousands of engagement events involving numerous attendees, our engagement needs to ramp up now that the station contractor has been confirmed for Curzon. The same requirement will exist for Interchange when a contractor is selected.
In essence, our objective to leave a longstanding legacy is integral to the station projects at Curzon and Interchange. We have already begun bringing this into reality through our design vision and requirements, the employment opportunities we have created, and the brilliant feedback we have listened to through our community engagement. Of particular note, the sustainability credentials of the stations are of utmost importance as they can play a crucial role in promoting a positive agenda. It is not just about how they technically perform, but it is also about sustainable community growth. Younger generations must be brought along in our development process because their insights are vital, and they will benefit from the outcomes they influence.
Hala Lloyd joined HS2 in 2016 as part of the engineering team. Then in 2017, she was appointed Lead Architect for the Phase One Area North stations. Hala has over twenty years of experience working on transformational public sector projects, including the redevelopment of Birmingham New Street Station and Crossrail at Farringdon.
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Pride was a little odd for AECOM last year, as it was for organisations around the world. Gone were the parades, parties, and on-street protests thanks to the pandemic, but the LGBTQ+ community still rallied round, arguably more than ever. Collaborating with Building Equality, companies from across the construction and engineering industry worked together to host countless online events and ensure the community still felt supported.
With the prospect of in-person Pride events back on the table for 2021, the excitement from the LGBTQ+ community and beyond is already palpable. Due to re-opening dates being pushed back in many countries, we’re looking at the prospect of ‘Pride season’ rather than ‘Pride month’, and that’s no bad thing. It certainly feels like more companies than ever, across all industries, have changed their logos and voiced their support on social media for Pride season. It’s been amazing to see after a turbulent year, but it’s more important than ever to remember that we must be proud every day of the year, not just during Pride. It’s also important to keep in mind some of the positives we learned from the pandemic, we’ve proved that not only can online events and support be effective, they’re also low carbon and largely accessible if done right.
Year-round support for LGBTQ+ colleagues should start with establishing an employee resource group to raise and work on concerns. The group should be a safe, accessible, intersectional space, not only for the LGBTQ+ community but also allies and those who want to offer support but aren’t sure where to start. These groups generally start as grassroots movements, but it’s equally important to show that there’s not only leadership buy-in but also visible support and representation at the highest levels that cascades through the business.
Whilst employee resource groups tend to provide social support; policies, procedures and language use are also significant in terms of ensuring the LGBTQ+ community feel supported. Often overlooked, guidance on issues such as transitioning, pronoun use and the importance of allyship can be a vital resource; for both the LGBTQ+ community and managers alike. Much of this guidance is already available online, with relatively minimal work required needed to make it relevant for individual businesses.
This Pride season let’s make sure our support for the LGBTQ+ community is more outwardly visible and authentic than ever, it’s important to remember that Pride started as a protest and people around the world are still having to fight for their basic human rights. Arguably the real work starts not during Pride but during the rest of the year, when businesses and colleagues need to ensure that there is continual support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Pride: a deep sense of satisfaction in what you’ve accomplished; in who you are; and in what makes you unique. To celebrate Pride this month, we’ve encouraged our colleagues to share their stories and show that by championing inclusion and diversity (I&D), we can feel more empowered and united.
Let’s go on a quick tour of our global offices to see the work and activities carried out by our Pride@Stantec Employee Resource Groups – an initiative launched in 2017 to create a safe, supportive space for LGBT+ colleagues and allies to come together.
In the Netherlands, you’ll notice a flash of colour on entrances, as you print a document, grab a coffee, or visit a bathroom. Our Pride symbol, a rainbow pixel heart, in the form of stickers are placed in locations to communicate our inclusive culture.
In San Francisco, our Pride events coincide with the city’s world-famous LGBT+ Pride. To help new employees feel welcome in our large office, our staff send emails with their photos so everyone can quickly recognise and greet new starters.
In Canada, we held our first ever Pride float in Edmonton’s 2017 parade. The float helped colleagues get to know each other better and also encouraged to build up a local contingent of allies. The blend of people involved has demonstrated the concept of inclusion—it isn’t about creating exclusive clubs; it’s about bringing everyone together.
In the UK and Ireland, we’ve participated in national Pride activities including parades in various cities, and a 2020 Virtual Pride Parade. Last year, we established a partnership with Stonewall, dedicated to empowering individuals and transforming institutions to better support the LGBT+ community. This year, we’re holding virtual Pride celebrations from 28 to 30 June, producing role model videos around What Pride Means to Me, and are getting involved in Manchester Pride. Each reception area of our UK offices also now has an amazing ‘Everyone is Awesome’ Lego set.
In New Zealand, we launched inclusion workshops for teams which gave participants the opportunity to share their own experiences in a safe setting. The focus is also leading by example, and at the end of each inclusion workshop, the leaders ask participants what they’ll personally do to increase inclusion.
We encourage our staff to call out things that need to be corrected and be a voice for those who might not be brave enough or ready to be the voice themselves. This year, we’ve created Pride banners for our virtual meetings, and encourage staff to use pronouns on email signatures and LinkedIn profiles. Our people share their stories, through webinars, internal communications platforms and employee groups.
Other activities to increase the inclusiveness of our Company include examining our language, our policies and benefits programmes, setting up Inclusion & Diversity Councils, and hosting unconscious bias training. We’ve been named by Forbes as a top employer for diversity, are proud of our new partnership with Workplace Pride, and joined forces with other organisations, including Stonewall in UK, OK2BME and Pride at Work in Canada, and Rainbow Tick in New Zealand.
Over the years, we’re proud to say we’ve made some incredible progress. However, as we continue to evolve, so does our understanding of how we need to take this to the next level. The inclusive workplace we want to achieve empowers and inspires and provides psychological safety and wellbeing. Without inclusion, diversity is that much more difficult to achieve. To attract and retain top talent from all walks of life, we need to ensure inclusion is a way of being. Truly transformative work is born from diversity. Harnessing the power of all the characteristics that make us who we are is vital to our success. We design with community in mind and to genuinely fulfil that promise, we commit to equity in design and to be representative of the many communities we serve.
Economic development aims to create stronger communities and sustainable economies – both objectives which most people support. So why do attempts to transform towns, cities and regions sometimes face apathy or even resistance from the very people they are intended to benefit?
In collaboration with the Association of Women in Property, Copper Consultancy’s Group Account Director, Fiona Woolston, will showcase our latest research into how the public view investment in places and how these findings can be used to improve project engagement and communications. The webinar will include a case study of Copper’s work on The London Resort, a world-class, sustainable, next generation entertainment resort.
The webinar will close with a Q&A session and an opportunity for attendees to share their good and bad experiences of public engagement and communications to promote best practice learning among the group.
Open to members and non-members, please register here.
As well as building Britain’s new low-carbon, high-speed railway, it’s also important that HS2 Ltd attracts a diverse range of people to help deliver Europe’s largest infrastructure project. As a result, we want our workforce to represent the diverse communities along our line of route and the future generations the railway will serve once operational.
With our four core values – Integrity, Leadership, Respect and Safety – diversity spans across all that we do at HS2. Furthermore, our CEO, Mark Thurston has made diversity and inclusion a personal commitment as we collectively strive to leave a stronger and more representative workforce for the next generation, capable of delivering the UK’s future pipeline of infrastructure projects.
Earlier this year we became the only organisation in the UK to have achieved the Clear Assured Platinum Standard accreditation. We received the award in recognition of our commitment to embedding inclusive best practice into all elements of its work, including the design and delivery of the new railway.
Underpinning much of this activity is Onboard, our employee network for LGBTQ+ people and Allies. The network aspires to be an exemplar network for both our own employees and supply chain partners, and also demonstrates how we’re being a good neighbour in the communities we work in.
Onboard has helped to update policies and documents to make HS2 Ltd more inclusive. Changes it has made as a result include a more comprehensive trans inclusion policy and gender-neutral toilets. This approach is being applied to support future generations as we design our infrastructure and rolling stock.
Onboard also collaborates closely with a range of other employee engagement groups, including HS2’s own Gender Balance, BAME and 2Gether Disability Networks, as well as equivalent associations within our supply chain.
An example of this collaboration is the recently launched HS2 Allies Programme. The programme is shared by all the Networks and each group runs a session for HS2 employees – including our Executive team and Board – on how to be an Ally both in and out of the workplace.
However, we’re certainly not complacent as an organisation and there is always more that we can do, including the challenge to embed our same level of commitment across the thousands of companies that make up our UK supply chain. In fact, later this year we will be publishing the LGBTQ+ diversity of our supply chain – thought to be an industry first – and it will be one of the best benchmarks of LGBTQ+ inclusion in construction.
From a personal point of view, being part of Onboard is intrinsic to my experience as an out gay employee at HS2 Ltd. From social, networking and learning opportunities to policy and monitoring, Onboard makes me feel valued and visible in the same breath – which is a great feeling. A particular highlight was getting to represent HS2 Ltd at Birmingham Pride in 2019 together with Building Equality, an alliance of construction organisations and professionals working together to drive LGBTQ+ inclusion in the construction sector.
Alongside our workforce and its legacy, what we deliver for LGBTQ+ communities is just as crucial as our industry commitments. We have collectively gone above and beyond mandatory regulatory obligations in setting new standards, using focus groups, workshops, panels, and soundboards to understand what inclusive design means for those with protected characteristics.
Over the next few years, as our stations start to take shape and our track gets laid along the length of the country, our design vision will become even more apparent to our future passengers. Together, we will prepare to experience a railway network that offers greater choice, reliability and improved accessibility, and this is something we can all be proud of.