A huge win for Thurso South project


Francis Williams, Environmental Project Manager, Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks

I first became aware of the CIRIA BIG Biodiversity Challenge and Awards four years ago and the main attraction for me was that these awards were from the construction industry itself, rather than from an ‘environmental’ organisation. Why was this important? Well, at times it can be challenging being an environmental person on a construction site. There are times where environment requirements can been seen as causing delays or increasing costs? This is a perception I am keen to try and break down as most people I work with do genuinely care about the environment. So, aiming for recognition from the industry was something site staff could relate to.

The BIG Biodiversity Challenge and Awards are fantastic in their simple message. Do one thing. A straightforward statement that is easy to communicate on site and to remain focused on. Right at the start of construction at Thurso South the contractors ECoW, Angus, suggested that the planting mix be changed to help a local endangered bee. This is called the Great Yellow bumble bee and Angus knew a local contact of the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust (BCT) who could provide the expert advice.

The advice of the BCT was invaluable as it allowed ‘our’ project to contribute to efforts the BCT and others have made in the local area. In other words; bigger, better and more joined up.

Sometimes it is difficult on a big project to maintain focus, however the level of engagement that developed on the site was amazing. For example, Angus provided a toolbox talk on bees and the site joined the BCT. I think this was helped by the fact that what we were trying to do was so focused and easy to explain, including general awareness of the issue of the decline in insects in general. Suzanne, our Project Manager who lives locally has also planted wild flowers in her own garden. Something I like to think has been encouraged by what we did at Thurso.

The focus on a Caithness species struck a cord with local newspapers, national news websites and the BCT blog. Recognition and praise of a job-well-done is a fantastic motivator and there is a real pride amongst those involved in the project that something worthwhile has been achieved.

Although the planting started out on one substation it has been repeated on two others in the local area. I think this is down to being able to demonstrate that the planting wasn’t onerous and has been recognised as something worthwhile doing.

It was with some trepidation that I entered Thurso South for the 2018 awards. How would the project measure up against all the other strong projects going on around the country? Had we done enough?

Going to the ceremony, winning three awards and hearing the positive comments from the judging panel and the other attendees was inspiring. I am sure it will inspire everyone in the project to take the BIG message on to their next projects.

Find out more about the 2018 BIG Biodiversity Challenge Award winners.