Sir John Armitt returned to his hometown on Wednesday 13th July 2016 as part of his two day presidential visit to the South East England region. Over the two days he also visited a new wastewater treatment scheme in Woolston and the British Airways i360 in Brighton.
Return to Portsmouth
Sir John left Portsmouth at the age of 20 after attending Portsmouth Northern Grammar School and studying civil engineering at Portsmouth College of Technology in 1966. He went on to become one of the most recognisable and influential civil engineers in the UK, delivering projects including the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the Second Severn Bridge and the London 2012 Olympic Games arenas.
As part of his return home, Sir John visited students at the University of Portsmouth where he viewed their research facilities and met with post graduate students to talk about the importance of innovation in infrastructure, including BIM and digital technologies.
He also met with local opinion formers to discuss how the South East must invest in infrastructure to prepare for continued population growth. He met with representatives from local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in the region to discuss funding for infrastructure, Brexit and the devolution agenda.
On returning to his hometown, Sir John said: “It’s fantastic to be back in Portsmouth where I grew up and to see how the city has changed. It has been particularly special to meet civil engineers at the University of Portsmouth who all have so much to contribute and will certainly go on to build incredible infrastructure projects.”
Highlighting ICE’s State of the Nation report on Devolution, Sir John encouraged greater local decision making on infrastructure projects in Portsmouth in order to boost local growth, environmental sustainability and quality of life.
The report which was published last month, backed Government’s effort to rebalance the economy and the focus on infrastructure as the key driver. It also welcomed the desire to develop Combined Authorities in the region.
Woolston Waste Water Treatment Works
Sir John also visited a scheme to update a Wastewater Treatment facility near Southampton. The redevelopment of Woolston Wastewater Treatment Works is a £63 million project which began in September 2014. The current site was built in 1966 and is in need of modernisation. The scheme is being completed by contractor 4Delivery, a consortium of Veolia Water, Costain and MWH.
On the project, Sir John said: “Changes to our communities, their populations and environmental challenges, place new demands on our infrastructure networks. The work taking place in Woolston to modernise the wastewater treatment facility will ensure it can serve the local area and better meet its needs long into the future.
“The treated wastewater leaving the site will also meet new, higher environmental standards, and the works are designed to fit with the redevelopment of the wider area – this is an excellent example of a project that works with and for the local community, and contributes to environmental goals.”
Julie Anne Stokes, Woolston’s Project Manager from Southern Water said: “This project is particularly challenging, not only due to the proximity to our customers with the nearest houses being directly across the road and the other extensive development happening in the area, but we also need to keep the treatment processes live during construction. This has meant we had to build a temporary treatment works on land adjacent to the old site and divert flows before demolition could start. This temporary works has also allowed us to start delivering benefits to our customers way ahead of construction being complete.”
Sir John’s final site visit was to the new i360 viewing tower on the Brighton seafront.
The vertical cable car, when complete, will slowly raise to 450 feet a futuristic glass viewing pod within which passengers can see a breathtaking 360 degree view of Brighton for up to 26 miles.
On the project, Sir John told the Brighton Argus: “Cities deserve iconic buildings. That’s what makes cities. But the trouble for all cities is there’s so much competition. You want tourists and it’s a constant struggle to find new ways to make the city attractive. But the i360 will do just that”.
“As an engineer, I just find the whole thing fascinating. It will be the tallest moving observation platform in the UK, higher than the tallest point of the London Eye”.
ICE South East England would like to thank all volunteers and organisations involved in the President’s Visit to the South East of England.