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Making waves

In our latest look at FM in unusual spaces, we visited the historic docks at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire to see the work VINCI is doing with the Canal & River Trust

major misconception of facilities management is that it is about running an office workplace. FM is much broader than that. It can be applied to a shopping centre, a football stadium, a museum, a hospital and the educational sector. These private and public spaces, which can range from airports to stations, canal towpaths and cafes to London’s Royal Parks; demand both high levels of customer service, compliance and a duty of care to a broad spectrum of people; from school children to the elderly.

A prime example of this kind of remit is the contract VINCI Facilities holds with the Canal & River Trust. One of the largest charities in the UK, the Trust has been established to help protect over thousands of miles of waterways in England and Wales, and maintains the nation’s third largest collection of listed structures, as well as museums, archives, navigations and hundreds of important wildlife sites. As well as looking after around 2,000 miles of canals and rivers, which are often over 200 years old, the Trust is responsible for an enormous network of bridges, embankments, towpaths, aqueducts, docks and reservoirs.

While the Trust directly manages the majority of the canals infrastructure, its contract with VINCI covers the property maintenance of the vast property portfolio that stretches across the canals network, from Devon in the Southwest to the Scottish Borders. The contract, which is worth £8 million a year, was initially for three years when it began in April 2012 but was extended for a year and then by a further two years – taking it to the end of March 2018.

It covers planned and preventative maintenance across approximately 2,500 properties, many of them listed, and comprises statutory compliance, reactive maintenance, wet waste removal and pollution response. It also covers project works, which can range from a small asbestos removal or a repointing of a lime mortar wall to a complete office refurb and restoration project.

One such project was for the Window on the World exhibition at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire. The site, which was still in use as late as the 1950s, attracts thousands of visitors to the museum every year, who can enjoy a walk around its fully restored locks, docks and warehouses and see its forge, stables and workers cottages.

VINCI worked alongside the Trust and its Volunteers on the restoration project on the slipway at Ellesmere Port, to restore and refurb the slipway and its four buildings. The creation of the new Windows on the World interactive exhibition included the installation of a new pathway and viewing platform from the main part of the Museum to the new exhibition. It was important that the project respected the heritage of the old Victorian buildings and the surrounding docks at Ellesmere Port, which were originally designed by the great civil engineer Thomas Telford.

Explains Leigh Hawkins, Regional Facilities Manager on the Canal & River Trust contract for VINCI Facilities: “Ellesmere Port predates the Manchester Ship Canal – so all the work carried out there has to match its heritage. For the Windows on the World project for example, the Winch House was restored fully and the external timber removed. Quite a few structural timbers were also carefully replaced due to severe rot, and where needed, we would match these as closely as we could to the originals from old photographs.”

VINCI even sent a group of volunteers to the project under its SOMAD day (Stand Out! Make A Difference) initiative which supports employees who wish to volunteer within the community by allowing them an additional day’s paid leave per year. The 10 members of staff from its nearby Denton office painted the Winch House, the roof of the Carpenters workshop, the foreman’s office and the inside of the Superintendent’s office.

Says Stephen Bosworth, Senior Building Surveyor for the Trust who drew up the specification for Windows on the World: “Windows on the World was a unique opportunity for the Trust and the museum and the VINCI relationship was ideal as myself and Leigh Hawkins worked together through the partnership to help make it a success.”

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