William Jacobsen:  As the Water Resource Management Plans for 2019 (WRMP19) are gradually signed off for publication by Defra and with the publication of Ofwat's PR19 final determination, there is little time for water resource planners in England and Wales to rest on their laurels.

In previous cycles the early years of the five-year period might have presented a slower pace of work for planners, but this time around the regulators are introducing a new tier of planning for water companies to engage with in the early stages of the cycle. This new tier will be aimed at fostering greater efficiency, resilience and problem-solving abilities between individual companies through regionally focussed planning groups.

The Environment Agency led National Framework team aimed to provide clarity on expectations for these planning groups in December with a publication akin to a guiding principles for regional planning and although it now seems likely that this publication will be delayed until early next year due to the election that doesn’t prevent the requirement for this work to be completed before WRMP24.

Derwent Valley ladybower reservoir

Possibly the most important document within the draft determination, for water resources planners at least, was the appendix on regional strategic schemes. This document set out plans to effectively put £450 million of funding on the table for investigation, design and planning of strategic regional schemes aimed at increasing national resilience and bridging any future deficits. A closer inspection of some of the terms behind this headline figure shows that, in keeping with the general theme of this price review, this is anything, but easy money and that funding will only be released for schemes which pass gateways to the next stage.

At the time of writing Ofwat’s regional strategic appendix has tried to set the number of initial schemes for which funding is available at 15. These 15 schemes include some of the most notable strategic schemes from the WRMPs such as the Severn-Thames transfer, Abingdon reservoir and Fawley Desalination to name just three. There is also the possibility of substituting in other schemes beyond this initial 15 as work progresses. It will be interesting to see if the approach remains the same in the final determination.

The PR19 determination on the funding and approach to strategic regional schemes dovetails in with the forthcoming publication of the findings from the National Framework for Water Resources Planning and Management. This publication will likely set out some of the approaches and objectives of this new tier of planning and may also provide new evidence to build on the findings of the Long Term Planning Framework and National Infrastructure Commission.

Of course, it is important to take step back for a moment to understand why this planning tier is necessary in the first place. After all some might argue we have been forecasting supply and demand under the current system of water resources management planning for 25+ years and that the uncertainties inherent within this planning have not changed a great deal within this time. Climate change forecasts have been available to the industry since UKCIP02 for WRMP04 and sustainability changes and population change are not particularly new concepts either.

WRMP planning methods are evolving and improving with each successive round of plans

In fact, planning methods are evolving and improving with each successive round of plans with WRMP19 seeing some of the most sophisticated and innovative plans yet. The elephant in the room here though is that water companies are only legally obliged to serve their own customers and as a result of this approach planning currently takes place largely within the, sometimes arbitrary, boundaries of individual water companies, and seldom on a broader geographical scale which might allow the most effective and efficient use of water. This means there is currently no wider strategy to bring water to companies where demand outstrips supply and only expensive or environmentally damaging options are available in their immediate area, leaving them high and dry.

One of the exciting possibilities of the National Framework is that it could provide alternative solutions to those presented in the WRMPs and possibly identify less costly solutions in terms of social, economic and financial cost than otherwise would have been found through standard WRMP planning. The result of this new planning tier is likely to be optioneering on a broader geographic scale than we have been used to in previous cycles with assessment of large-scale transfers and strategic multi company resources of the type seldom seen in “normal” WRMPs.

The prevailing view according to the Long Term Planning Framework and National Infrastructure Commission is that it is the south east that requires the most new resource. It seems likely that the National Framework will mirror that view in its findings and encourage trades from deemed surplus areas in the north and west, among other things. It will therefore be interesting to see how Ofwat’s RAPID and the Environment Agency’s National Framework teams work together to enable the fair assessment of large-scale transfers that could facilitate this in a way that doesn’t unfairly increase the cost and risk of operations for customers in those donor companies.

It is therefore exciting times indeed for water resource planners awaiting the publication of the National Framework and Ofwat’s final determination. The next two years are going to be critical to the way that regional plans are set up and the supra company options that are considered and progressed into WRMP24 plans.

Published inBlog

Ursula, one of six tunnel boring machines (TBMs) being used to dig London's new super sewer, has completed half of her stretch of the main tunnel, passing Waterloo Bridge in the process. 

In March 2019, Ursula became the second giant tunnelling machine to be launched from a 45m deep shaft at Tideway's Kirtling Street site in Battersea. Since then, the TBM has travelled 3.8km eastbound following a subterranean route below the River Thames. Her journey so far has seen her pass by famous landmarks including the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament. 

The TBM has also journeyed beyond Tideway sites at Heathwall Pumping Station, Albert Embankment and Victoria Embankment. Upon arrival beneath the site at Blackfriars Bridge Foreshore, Ursula will undergo a 6–8 week pit stop to prepare for the final part of her drive to Chambers Wharf in Bermondsey.  

To date, Ursula has installed 2,115 concrete segment rings which are used as the primary lining for the tunnel. Each ring is made up of eight segments including a key stone, and weigh in excess of 30 tonnes.

Over half a million tonnes of excavated material has already been removed from this stretch of tunnel, all of which was removed from site by barge.

Published inBlog

Berkeley is increasing building work by up to 50% over the next six years.

The housing giant is also looking to increase pre-tax profits to a total of £3.3bn over the six years to 30 April 2025 with targeted annual profits of between £500m and £700m.

The move will see the cash rich company hand out £1bn in special dividends to shareholders over the next two years – an increase of £455m on previous plans.

The firm said: “Since the end of the financial crisis in 2011, Berkeley has acquired a number of long-term regeneration sites, a number of which are now in, or coming into, production.

“In total, Berkeley is in the process of bringing forward 25 large and complex residential-led developments, of which 20 have been acquired since the start of this period.

“The execution of this strategy will see Berkeley increase its annual housing delivery (including in its joint ventures) by as much as 50% over the next six years.”

Published inBlog

Plans are underway to start the bulk mechanical, electrical, heating and ventilating work on the key Hinkley Point C nuclear island site in the Autumn.


The Office of Nuclear Regulation will need to give clearance for the start of the critical work package, after deeming the major milestone a safety-critical stage in the project.

The release of the first bulk MEH hold point by the regulator is expected before on-site work is programmed to start around October this year.

This would be two years since permission for first Nuclear Island concrete was given.

At this point, civil construction work on Unit 1 nuclear island will have reached the point where several individual rooms are structurally complete and ready to hand over from the main civil contractor to the MEH teams.

Balfour Beatty, NG Bailey, Altrad, Cavendish Nuclear and Doosan Babcock are all linked up in the MEH alliance to co-ordinate delivery of the complex installation of cabling and pipework.

Once started, the first bulk MEH installation across both reactor units will take place over a period of around three years, although detailed MEH system completions will continue well beyond that.

The MEH programme involves electrical and mechanical installations encompassing around 4,000 rooms, employing 3,500 workers.

Works will involve 380km of pipework, 20,000 valves, with thousands of welds and associated radiography, and 9000 km of cabling.

Published inBlog


HS2 ‘go/ no-go decision’ expected next month

14 JAN, 2020 BY 


The government is set to make a final “go/ no-go decision” on High Speed 2 (HS2) in early February, New Civil Engineer has learned.

It is understood that prime minister Boris Johnson will make a final decision on the project at the same time that the government-ordered Oakervee review is made public.

It had previously been suggested that the Oakervee report would be made public ahead of a final decision from government.

However, sources within the rail industry have told New Civil Engineer that Johnson is keen to detail the project’s future as quickly as possible.

“Once the Brexit deadline [January 31] is out the way, the government is keen to move the agenda on quickly,” one rail professional said. “HS2 is front of the queue of things to clear and to clear quickly."

“A decision on whether to proceed or how to proceed is now extremely likely to come at the same time that the report is made public.”

Doug Oakervee submitted his overarching review to the Department for Transport (DfT) in November where it was placed “in a vault” until after the General Election.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps had previously pledged to make the report public “as soon as [he] had it”. However, election campaign rules – and the need to “get Brexit done” – have so far prevented him from doing so.

Speaking in Leeds last week, Shapps confirmed that the report would be published in the “coming weeks”.

The Oakervee review was established to examine the entire HS2 project and make recommendations on the route, specification and project governance.

A leaked draft report published by the Times revealed that Oakervee is set to recommend proceeding with the project in full. However, the draft report did question HS2 Ltd’s procurement process and suggests that some contracts should be retendered.

Last week, former deputy chair of the HS2 review group Lord Berkeley described High Speed 2 (HS2) as a “wrong and expensive solution” and questioned the competence of government officials.

Berkeley, who stepped down from the group on 31 October last year, made the statements in a self-published “dissenting report” on the project, which has been welcomed by environmental campaigners but which has drawn criticism from the rail industry.

Berkeley claimed that review chairman Doug Oakervee’s report has a bias towards accepting HS2 Ltd’s evidence in preference to those of others, leading to a supportive recommendation for HS2 to continue.

He also criticised the involvement – and lack of scrutiny – of Treasury and DfT officials in the review and suggested that costs could be cut by up to £20bn by reducing the “unnecessarily high specification”.

However, HS2 officials have hit back, with former HS2 technical director Andrew McNaughton claiming that Berkeley’s report is “completely and factually wrong”.

Speaking to New Civil Engineer, McNaughton – who still acts as an advisor to HS2 Ltd – contested Berkeley’s conclusions that the project is designed to “an unnecessarily high” specification, that costs could be brought down by lowering the speed and that running 18 trains per hour is “unachievable”.

Published inBlog

Contact us

01959 562572

4 The Old Yard
Rectory Lane
Westerham ,Kent
TN16 1JP


Office 2.15,
27 Clements Lane,

We use cookies to provide you with the best possible browsing experience on our website. You can find out more below.
Cookies are small text files that can be used by websites to make a user's experience more efficient. The law states that we can store cookies on your device if they are strictly necessary for the operation of this site. For all other types of cookies we need your permission. This site uses different types of cookies. Some cookies are placed by third party services that appear on our pages.
Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.
ResolutionUsed to ensure the correct version of the site is displayed to your device.
SessionUsed to track your user session on our website.

More Details