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Vital infrastructure, like water, energy and broadband all play a key role in the growth and regeneration of the east of England.
The east of England is growing fast. Towns and cities are expanding and new urban centres are springing up. Even small, rural communities are seeing new development.
We have to supply all these new homes and businesses with water. That’s our job and our duty. It’s a duty because – put simply – nothing can happen without water. It’s essential.
But we believe our duty goes further than merely putting in pipes and pumps. The sheer necessity of water gives us a platform from which to influence others and to help shape sustainable, resilient communities.
And we think this is a duty too – to enable sustainable growth; to help future-proof our region against challenges like population growth and climate change, so communities can flourish and businesses, including ours, can thrive.
The same is true for other infrastructure providers. We all have a duty to help society adapt to change and a real opportunity to reimagine the places, both physical and digital, where we live and work.
Much of our workforce is spread over a huge, rural area, so good broadband speeds and a reliable mobile signal really matter.
Like many businesses and communities in our region we struggle with mobile ‘not spots,’ so when we changed mobile provider we made increasing levels of coverage to the region a condition of winning the contract.
Our people in the field now get better coverage and so do our customers. We used our procurement process to encourage investment and an improved service for the whole region.
Our influence is also helping to improve transport links. We need a reliable road network if we are to keep our own network of pipes, pumps and treatment works running smoothly. Sampling and maintenance work takes our employees to thousands of sites scattered across an operating area that covers 27,500km2.
But good transport links benefit everyone. They make our region better connected and more productive. So we’ve involved ourselves with local enterprise partnerships, businesses, communities and local authorities to – if you’ll pardon the pun – drive improvements to road and rail.
For example, our group director of corporate affairs chairs the New Anglia LEP, championing causes that include Norwich in 90 and No More A14 Delays in Suffolk. And we’re working hard to reduce the impact of our own streetworks on people’s journeys. Infrastructure should help and not hinder.
All of these things come together in Wisbech, where Anglian Water is playing a key role in regenerating a town that has been left behind in terms of economic development.
We are a driving force behind the Wisbech Garden City Vision, which aims to build 10,000 new homes and to bring the railway back to the town for the first time in nearly 50 years.
This is the Fens and much of the development would be on land vulnerable to flooding. We want to show how this barrier can be overcome with innovative flood mitigation like sustainable drainage (SuDS) and better surface water management.
SuDS and green space can reduce flood risk. They would also enhance the environment and benefit the people – our customers – who live in Wisbech. But this scheme would also show how they can unlock large scale, sustainable development.
The world is changing and infrastructure providers must change too. It is no longer enough for to continue with traditional, introverted and incremental ways of doing business. We need to have a global perspective and to place communities, the environment and the economy at the heart of our thinking and planning.