Clarke Willmott has been engaged with the construction of Hinkley Point C (HPC) since July 2010 when EDF Energy organised an initial local supply chain conference in Bridgwater attracting 140 attendees from businesses across Somerset.
It was evident at the very earliest stages of consultation the prospects were substantial and potentially game- changing.
A significant amount of energy and commitment was required as it was clear that due to the scale and complexity of the project, it would be a few years before contracts of significance would be awarded. However, just over 12 months after the initial local supply chain conference, contracts to the value of £9 million had been awarded to local companies, giving impetus and encouragement.
From the initial conference and over the next few years Clarke Willmott focused their attention on developing relationships with those businesses owners who had ambition, drive and vision, often facilitated by the Hinkley Supply Chain team run by Somerset Chamber of Commerce. Like EDF Energy, Clarke Willmott saw the building of Hinkley Point C as a once-in-a-generation opportunity for positive and sustainable growth locally, regionally and nationally.
The early work packages centred on site preparation and site-operation contracts. These included contracts related to accommodation, transportation, catering, reprographics and site infrastructure services in which Clarke Willmott were heavily involved. In particular, Clarke Willmott provided support to business owners wanting to join forces to create new businesses which could potentially achieve success through challenging, yet rewarding, contracts.
The expertise which Clarke Willmott could draw from was extensive. Founded in Somerset more than 100 years ago, the firm operates from seven strategic centres in Taunton, Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester, London and Southampton employing over 600 staff and partners.
Early work focused on corporate activity setting up joint ventures and consortia to create locally based companies such as Somerset Passenger Solutions (transportation) and FACE (reprographics), led by Corporate Partner Simon Smith.
Once preferred bidder status was obtained, Construction Partner Zoe Stollard (pictured) advised these two new businesses, as well as HOST (accommodation) through the NEC3 contract process which for most was a new way of working requiring expert guidance. Clarke Willmott also advised one of the Somerset Larder (catering) JV partners on property and construction matters in relation to the Central Production Kitchen.
It was clear that both Zoe and Simon required support which gave opportunities for others in the business to gain valuable experience, in particular, Hayley Steel, Partner – Construction, who has recently been promoted, Bethan Evans, Partner – Banking and Finance, Simone Protheroe, Construction – Solicitor, along with other solicitors and professionals.
While much of the focus has been on NEC3 contracts, work has evolved into other areas including being instructed on commercial property, facilitating funding transactions, licencing, commercial law, immigration, contractual service frameworks agreements and particularly employment matters, as businesses involved had to scale up to meet demand. This has brought more of the extended team from many of the company’s offices throughout the country into contact with work at HPC.
The firm has accelerated its engagement over the last 12 months in developing relationships throughout the nuclear energy sector by partnering and hosting the recent Nuclear South West industry event, becoming active members of the Wales Nuclear Forum, sharing views relating to the sector including diversity, skills, energy strategy and collaboration. This planned approach clearly demonstrates our commitment to the sector and clean energy generation. With a pool of experts who have gained experience of this unique project, the door is always open for an initial conversation to either help or signpost.
Stephen Rosser (pictured), Clarke Willmott Chief Executive, said: “Having visited Hinkley Point C earlier this year, I fully appreciate the opportunities for all business including our own. To give our future talent the opportunity to learn new skills on a project of this magnitude is not to be underestimated. I am delighted that the core team of Zoe, Simon and Dale Edwards our Specialist Nuclear Energy and Infrastructure Consultant are spearheading growth and opportunity, supported by a growing team.
“Nuclear energy generation has become an area of expertise which I and the Board are proud of. As the project moves into the construction phases I am confident the team and opportunities will develop further. It is also pleasing to see the firm taking such a proactive approach to supporting the overarching UK government plan for a low carbon energy generation solution with our nuclear experts working closely with our established renewable energy team.”