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BLOG: Geared up to give back in Hackney

By Richard Dobson, Morgan Sindall Construction’s area director for London

The importance of good mental and physical health, like so many things, has been magnified through the experience of the pandemic. Having spaces in our lives where we are able to exercise, develop healthy habits and connect with other people does make a real difference to our quality of life.

For this reason, the role leisure centres serve in communities has rightly been reappraised over the last 18 months and there is a new enthusiasm for the contribution they can make to wellbeing.

From our perspective at Morgan Sindall Construction, the value leisure centres deliver in local communities can start long before the building is handed over. The social value outcomes from community facilities are paramount and that was certainly the case in one of our recent projects, the four-storey Britannia Leisure Centre in the London Borough of Hackney.

The stacked urban leisure centre features an impressive six-lane, 25 metre main pool with access to a steam room and sauna, a 20 metre by 10 metre training pool with movable floor and a splash play with water flume that is proving to be very popular. The project has achieved a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating, as throughout the process the team collaborated with the supply chain to seek carbon reduction solutions.

Throughout the construction process, Morgan Sindall Construction implemented new ideas and initiatives – in collaboration with the local community – on how the project could include those most hardest to reach and vulnerable. Ensuring that this wasn’t just another large scale regeneration scheme defined by numbers.

Despite social value being only worth a small percentage of the tender evaluation, the team made it a focus throughout the project. This was underpinned by a clear set of objectives that were the product of regular resident forums with the local community and client team which started in the preconstruction phase and continued to carry on once the team were onsite and building. The project set itself the challenge to fully engage and work alongside the local community to coordinate all social value activities, maximise opportunities for disadvantaged groups and improve employability skills, particularly for residents of Hackney and the immediate area. The Morgan Sindall Construction teams worked to enrich the local school curriculums, partnering with employment organisations and training providers, seeking innovative solutions to ensure environmental sustainability.

In order to become more embedded within the local community, the project’s Community Investment Manager engaged with several groups across Hackney, including Shoreditch Trust, Chelsea Methodist Church and Shoreditch Park primary school. Overall £48,000+ and 822 charitable hours were donated across different causes.

When faced with the challenge of improving equality and diversity within Hackney, Morgan Sindall Construction engaged with local groups including Women in Construction – where 60 women were consulted with directly to improve their wider employability within construction.

Aretha Kelly, a member of Women in Construction, said: “It not only boosted personal hope to forge a career in the industry and enthusiasm for the varied roles available but also expressed so much gratitude for the million pieces of advice and insight knowledge that was provided to each mentee.”

As part of enriching the community, 42% of the supply chain came from within the borough and over 50% of work experience students were from Hackney – surpassing the internal target of 30%. The development fulfilled its promise to upskill the community, by creating 57 full-time roles and 65 other roles spanning across apprentices and work experience. This was supplemented by 59 community engagement events including 24 school engagement activities. Whilst reminding ourselves of the stats is impressive, it is the individual people that the project has had a positive impact on that is most rewarding.

Phillip Glanville, Elected Mayor of Hackney, said: “A critical part of the Britannia Development for the Council has always been the social value that could also be delivered as part of the project. This has always felt like a key focus for Morgan Sindall as well - they have delivered excellent outcomes on apprenticeships, mentoring and work placements. However they have also gone further, working hard on sustainability through initiatives like the use of cargo bikes and developing important links with local charities, community groups and schools throughout the project. Morgan Sindall Construction is certainly one of the best contractors we have worked in partnership with in terms of delivering social value outcomes.”