Top UK civil engineer has confidence in infrastructure investment in North Wales

The UK’s leading civil engineer and President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), Sir John Armitt, has visited North Wales this week to discuss investment in infrastructure in the region and to see for himself some of the key infrastructure schemes underway.

Sir John Armitt unveils the plaque with David Rowlands Chairman ICE Wales Cymru and representatives of the Chainbridge Team.
Sir John Armitt unveils the plaque with David Rowlands Chairman ICE Wales Cymru and representatives of the Chainbridge Team.

Sir John has advised the UK government on infrastructure for a number of years and was recently appointed as member of the National Infrastructure Commission. He is also chairing an independent National Needs Assessment, which will result in a report setting out the UK's infrastructure needs up to 2050.

Sir John had a busy schedule which included the launch of an innovative new Further Learning Programme at Glyndŵr University in Wrexham. The Learning Programme will be based and managed by the University with some of the delivery provided by local companies and ICE members. This is the first programme of its kind available in north Wales and overcomes the need for engineers – to travel outside of Wales to gain Incorporated Engineer or Chartered Engineer accredited further learning.

He also chaired an Infrastructure Investment Debate attended by senior construction professionals in north Wales, ICE members and representatives of the Welsh government – and listened to plans for investment in renewable energy, strategic transport, flood risk management, and in the regions' rail infrastructure.

"We know there is a strong link between investment in infrastructure and the economic prosperity of Wales," said Sir John Armitt.

"Investment in the skills needed to deliver new and improved infrastructure in North Wales - through new courses like the innovative Further Learning Programme at Glyndŵr University – is extremely positive. The commitment to flood protection schemes, renewable energy and rail projects, and the new prison scheme in Wrexham, is also clear to see. It has been a pleasure to see and hear about some of these impressive projects and the benefits they will deliver to the Welsh economy and to society."

He continued: "I was particularly pleased to launch the new Further Learning Programme course which offers students the opportunity to gain a professional qualification with ICE on graduation. This is a major advantage in a competitive jobs market and should hopefully help in attracting more young people into the civil engineering profession."

Professor Maria Hinfelaar , Vice-Chancellor of Wrexham Glyndŵr University, said: "We were honoured to welcome Sir John to the University for the launch of this innovative new programme.

"Engineering is one of our most established subject areas so we are delighted to be joining forces with the Institution to meet the demands of the industry and support the growth of the sector in North Wales, and to prevent talent leaving the region to achieve a higher education in this field."

The ICE President was also given a guided tour of the new North Wales Prison, HMP Berwyn, construction site in Wrexham and heard about key design elements of the scheme, such as the use of precast concrete for custodial properties, and economic benefits to the region. The £212m facility, which will be big enough to hold around 2000 inmates when it opens next year, is being built by Construction firm Lend Lease. The scheme is also the latest project to join the national #thisiscivilengineering public awareness campaign being run by ICE and the President unveiled a banner at the site to mark its participation in the campaign.

The campaign showcases different sectors of civil engineering and allows the general public to make links between the civil engineering that they can see taking place and the benefits that it will bring to their homes and communities.

Sir John also took the opportunity to view the refurbishment work to the historic Chainbridge at Llantysilio, near Llangollen and to unveil a plaque. Llantysilio Chainbridge, recently named as the winner of ICE Wales Cymru's Roy Edwards Heritage Award 2016, was originally built in 1817 to link the Llangollen Canal and the A5 London to Holyhead road, but was replaced in 1876 when the original structure was considered beyond repair. It was replaced again in 1928, when all but the supporting chains survived flood damage, by Sir Henry Robinson who decided to rebuild the bridge along the lines of the Menai Suspension bridge. It was closed in the 1980s due to its dangerous state of repair.

The bridge - which now carries a footpath across the River Dee between Berwyn Station and the Chainbridge Hotel - has undergone extensive restoration work which included restoring and repairing each iron element and providing a new timber decking and will play a vital role in the local tourism industry. The lead for the project was taken by Llangollen Town Council supported by Llantisilio Community Council with Heritage Lottery funding the majority of the cost along with locally raised funds.

Keith Jones, Director ICE Wales Cymru said:

"The plaque unveiled today at Llantysilio Ironbridge, in its iconic Welsh setting in a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area of Conservation, and a World Heritage Site, will help us show what civil engineering is about - highlighting historic infrastructure projects is equally important as highlighting modern schemes taking part in the campaign, such as North Wales Prison at Wrexham.

He continued: "People can find out more about civil engineering and ICE's campaign by entering #thisiscivilengineering into Twitter or by visiting ICE's website"