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Waking up the neighbours

SITE REPORT

WITH 10,000 neighbours peering over their garden walls as the works progress Costain is keen to ensure that local residents are happy with the project.

'Our community liaison work started four months before construction began, ' explains Mr James. 'That was another benefit of the ECI contract. It allowed us to consider the impact on the community when we were designing a template for the works.' Costain employed former police officer Gwyn Williams as a full-time community liaison officer. As well as establishing a visitor centre with a large, £3,000 scale model of the project at the Pontygwaith site offices, he regularly sends out mail shots in English and Welsh notifying residents when new works will commence. A dedicated website, www. porthreliefroad.com, is constantly updated with news of the project. He visited 12 local schools to talk about safety on building sites, knowing that large construction plant is a big draw for curious children. Youths did initially cause problems on site.

'We're used to a bit of pilfering but kids were throwing stones at machine operators, ' says George Black, works manager. 'They don't think about the consequences and entertainment is a bit lacking in this area.

'Instead of prosecution we are working with the police to develop incentives for the kids to leave the site alone by, for instance, sending them quad biking.' This approach has already proved successful. The autumn half-term week was a concern, with bored kids potentially targeting the site. The project contacted Cardiff City Football Club and Cardiff Blues rugby team and set up a sports training camp for the week. The site team was pleased to report that there were no problems from children for the whole week.

The council wanted to see benefits for local people before the scheme started to reduce gridlock in Porth.

'We've tried to engage the economically inactive, ' says Mr Williams. 'That doesn't just mean the unemployed ? those rates are relatively low in the Rhondda. But there are lots of people on incapacity benefit and we've targeted them.' The project has already attracted 34 local people ? busting through the council-set target of 30 ? back into employment on the scheme, some in administrative positions and some on site. There are teenagers, single mums and some in their 50s who thought they would never get a job again.

'It's a programme we have with the job centre in Porth, ' says Mr Williams. 'They helped prepare the candidates for interview with us and with their CVs. Some of them had been out of the job market for so long they'd lost the knack.' The client expects that the programme will gain workers a CSCS card or an NVQ so that when the project finishes they can remain in employment.

In addition to the 10,000 living neighbours, the site has a few dead ones who need to be handled just as carefully.

The graveyard of the old Cymmer chapel has 365 graves with over 800 sets of human remains buried in them dating from the 1750s through to 1900. The chapel itself is now a private dwelling and the team got a licence from the home office allowing the bodies to be exhumed and relocated to another area of the graveyard unaffected by the relief road. Two local families came forward to claim the bodies of relations.

For the most part the community is behind the scheme.

Comments in the book at the visitors centre show that locals cannot wait to see the new road up and running.

'Not before time, ' it reads, and 'Please get on with it.' The core team has worked on many road projects before, including the Silverstone bypass and the M4 Junct ion 13 at Chievely.

'Our last th ree projects have gained gold awards f rom the Considerate Constructors scheme, ' says Mr James.

'We're going for our fourth in a row on this one.'