'Involving people is critical'

WET News talks to Anne Dugdale, an experienced chartered town planner who has joined engineering firm Black & Veatch.

"THE BLACK & Veatch vision is Building a World of Difference, and you can't build much in the UK without planning permission. My role as a town planner with the company will prove invaluable in extending its capabilities."

That is the view of Anne Dugdale, a chartered town planner with more than 14 years' experience, who has joined engineering, consulting and construction company Black & Veatch to strengthen its service capabilities.

Integrated service
According to Dugdale, the business is now able to engage with clients at the earliest stages of their projects, providing a fully integrated service, from obtaining planning permission, through to commissioning and handover.

Dugdale was previously with a major UK specialist infrastructure planning consultancy, where she worked with clients from the water, ports and energy sectors. As a result, she brings to Black & Veatch an understanding of the planning needs of numerous clients in the infrastructure sector that will aid in securing planning consent for major wastewater and water infrastructure projects.

She will advise clients on planning issues, manage their planning applications and assist Black & Veatch project teams with planning matters on projects in progress.
Dugdale says: "My appointment allows for planning input at different stages of a project. This is a useful benefit, as invariably schemes change and designs evolve as more is learnt about a site.

"Client needs often evolve and develop throughout a project, and this can lead to planning issues, I am in a position to advise on planning strategy and negotiate changes with stakeholders."

Through this, client relationships will be strengthened as Black & Veatch is better able to respond proactively to a client's needs.

Dugdale says: "Proposals put forward will be well targeted, making it more likely that the bid succeeds. If a bid must comply with a planning consent already in place I can advise on how to follow it and highlight any elements of flexibility it may allow."

This approach will save clients both time and cost.

Dugdale will lend her expertise to designers as they develop designs: "There are often many constraints and conditions under which you have to construct. An engineer who has worked closely on the project for many months could be in danger of losing sight of some of those or perhaps not quite understanding how they should be interpreted.

"Involvement at the planning application stage can give Black & Veatch greater insight into a client's goals and needs for a project than the business has when it joins a project at the design or construction phase."

Effective dialogue
Increasingly, planning applications are determined in the context of local needs and requirements, making consultation, dialogue and engagement vital. Effective dialogue with external bodies, stakeholders, planning authorities, and, especially, the local community is essential for a smooth-running project.

Dugdale says: "Community involvement throughout projects is critical. Making sure the reason work is being carried out is clear - often to deliver vital water infrastructure the public will need - allows better discussion of real issues concerning residents."

She continues: "If you can find out what community concerns are - perhaps that their children won't have a safe route to school - then you can resolve the issues quickly, such as by maintaining safe access routes and liaising with local schools. If you can deal with these things early on then people won't get upset later.

"More often than not, if you can get that message over earlier so, for example, people know why it is you are putting a trench down their road, to deliver water infrastructure that everybody, including themselves, needs, and that you will ensure measures are in place to minimise disruption, then they understand the need for the works. It's about being approachable and building trust with local communities."

Since joining Black & Veatch, Dugdale has hit the ground running having gained an understanding of the company's business style from working alongside it on past projects. "I did the planning applications for Margate and Broadstairs Wastewater Treatment Scheme, designed by Black & Veatch and constructed in partnership with Costain," she says.

Dugdale will provide in-house expert assistance on planning-related elements in all of the professional services work undertaken by the Black & Veatch. In particular with the UK Government & Industry region, in the area of environmental impact assessments, sustainability appraisals, and strategic environmental assessments.

"The need to successfully manage planning issues has grown, and will continue to do so," says Peter Martin, Black & Veatch's director of Technical Services.

"The planning permission stage is increasingly complex, but its success is vital to the overall outcome of most utility infrastructure projects. Anne is experienced in working with those who assess planning applications, and she understands what they look for in a successful application.

Potential issues
"Our clients will now be able to appoint a Black & Veatch planning consultant well in advance of engineering consultants, outlining the benefit of the business' extended capability. We can now see much earlier in the life of a project where the potential issues lie, which means we are better placed to stop the issues becoming problems.

"Essentially, Anne's appointment enables both us and our clients better management of planning-related risks."

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