Leading the way in engineering

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An award winning city council service is in demand following years of delivering high quality and cost effective coastal defence projects to the district and elsewhere in southeast England.

The ongoing work of the council’s coastal engineering team protects more than £3.2 billion worth of residential and commercial property and ensures that the 27,000 people who live and work in areas of the district at risk of flooding and coastal erosion are protected from potentially devastating flooding.

The team, whose project portfolio includes important defence works such as the Whitstable Harbour south quay improvements, Herne Bay sea defence upgrades and coast protection projects around the coast from Medway to Eastbourne, has become a leading light in coastal engineering, which has resulted in a growing demand for their expertise.

The city council engineering team recently completed work in Rother.

Engineering Manager Liam Wooltorton says: “We’ve built a highly experienced and qualified team of engineers who provide professional services not only to the city council but also to our partner councils and other external clients.”

The team’s growing reputation comes from playing a key role in the East Kent Engineering Partnership (EKEP), a group formed in 2007 to enable local authorities to reduce costs whilst working together on the long term management of flood and coastal erosion projects in the district and across the rest of Kent.

However, over the last ten years, local authorities within the partnership have seen a reduction in their coastal engineering capabilities, leaving a space for Canterbury to lead the way.

Liam says: “Neighbouring districts have greatly reduced their engineering capacity because of the squeeze on local government and the lack of certainty around externally funded work. So we really are at the forefront of the partnership delivering work on behalf of others.”

Canterbury has always had a strong connection with maritime engineering, priding itself on its ability to train and retain members of staff, and Liam says he considers his team to be a centre of excellence in the field.

He adds: “We’ve had a history of bringing through young engineers and putting them through a training programme. And because of the work through the EKEP, we’ve been able to offer a real variety of experience, which you would struggle to find elsewhere.”

One of the reasons the council’s engineering team is so highly regarded within engineering is because of their ability to submit robust business cases on behalf of others in the partnership. In the last 15 years they’ve successfully applied for and been awarded more than £30 million worth of government and Environment Agency flood defence grants.

A benefit of working on behalf of so many external clients is that it has helped generate a significant income for the council. Liam says: “The external work undertaken by us for other local authorities in the East Kent Engineering Partnership, South East Coastal Group and the Environment Agency generates an income that averages more than £500,000 a year.”

The income generated from the team’s work is important to the council as it can be used to support other services and projects across the district as well as help to develop the engineering team.

“It is vital that we remain at the forefront of flood and coastal defence management, so we can continue to provide cost effective and innovative solutions to flood and coastal defence problems,” Liam adds.