The UK water industry traditionally comes into contact with customers when issuing bills or dealing with service shortfalls, when customers are forced to contact their local water company advising of an issue. There is an opportunity for water companies to change public perception by doing more for local communities and wider society. There have been recent calls from the regulator Ofwat for the water industry to drive greater Value for Money for customers, to generate more positive societal impact and to engage with its communities and get closer to its customers.
Yorkshire Water (YW) serves 2.3 million households and 130,000 businesses in the Yorkshire and Humber region. Like most water companies, it has siloed projects and activities working with community groups or third sector organisations. But in 2017 YW, set in motion plans to change its relationship with customers and create long term customer benefit by delivering multi-outcome partnership projects using land associated with its urban assets.
Arup was asked to work with YW to deliver an ‘urban recreation strategy’, but as a result of this commission YW received a much more strategic piece of work. Arup set out YW’s potential to broaden its original aspirations beyond urban recreation and explore how working in new ways with partners could deliver multiple outcomes and deliver wider-reaching social and environmental value.
YW already had a rich tapestry of relevant projects and initiatives underway but wanted to take a more strategic approach. The purpose of the study therefore evolved during ongoing engagement with the client and ultimately became the creation of an innovative Urban Partnership Strategy (UPS) for YW. This outlined a framework that could help to maximise the added value of its urban assets, explore alternative land management approaches and potentially develop new partnerships with local community’s and the third sector whilst delivering this through minimal or cost neutral approaches.
The project represents a roadmap for a new way of thinking within YW about its assets and partnering opportunities to deliver services with real benefits for the region’s local communities and natural environment. It has helped to make social and community projects visible and forms the first building block in YW’s journey towards becoming a shared value-based business.
View the Arup company profile in the MCA Members Directory.