Community innovation praised at Heron Bros Ltd’s Foyle College and Ebrington Primary School & Nursery project

Heron Bros Ltd’s Foyle College and Ebrington Primary School and Nursery project in Londonderry had an innovative method fpr reaching out to the travelling community.

Heron Bros Ltd’s community liaison officer gave a presentation at a careers fair promoting employability for the travelling community and provided details of job opportunities on site, both within the company and the construction industry.

The careers fair was sponsored by the Belfast-based Bryson Charitable Group – Northern Ireland’s leading social enterprise tackling major social and economic challenges, which includes the traveller support organisation, An Munia Tober.

Heron Bros Project Manager, Paul McNamee said:

“It was very important for Heron Bros to integrate into the community in which we are working, minimising disruption and maximising construction benefits. The Scheme’s Code of Considerate Practice is very similar to Heron Bros’ own core values; both provide a model of how to positively manage a construction site efficiently, with an awareness of environmental issues, and above all consideration for the local community and workforce.

Other community considerations on this project included extensive sponsorship of site visits by colleges and schools and an on-going partnership with three to four pupils from different year groups, engaging in Scheme-related activities.

Here is what the project encompassed:

Foyle College

The construction of a new two and three storey educational facility interlinked to the proposed single storey primary school.

The college educational facility included general and specialist classrooms, public reception facilities, administrative offices, library, sports hall/gymnasium/fitness suite, changing facilities, schools meals/catering facilities, locker facilities, storage, circulation and other ancillary/services accommodation.

Ebrington Primary School

The construction of a 16-classroom facility and associated ancillary accommodation in a single storey building of load-bearing masonry, with a timber trussed roof construction. The primary school was interlinked to Foyle College, sharing both the kitchen and energy centre facilities.

Ebrington Nursery School

Adjacent to the primary school, this was a separate nursery unit of similar construction/finishes to the primary school. The nursery unit will provide 52 places in two classrooms with associated facilities.


Including hard and soft play areas, MUGA (Multi Use Games Area) pitch, earthworks, civil infrastructures and utilities, car parking, roads, footpaths and landscaping, as well as works outside the boundary creating new access and egress points.

One of the main challenges of this project was that the construction of the new school was bounded on all sides by residential properties and the site itself was in an area of rich historical importance.

Here are some examples of best practice initiatives carried out by Heron Bros Ltd:

  • The entrance area and signage created a first rate impression and the site appeared very well organised and tidy.
  • The supply chain was engaged in maintaining appearances through routine gateman checks and inspections for wheel cleanliness.
  • Site initiatives included the ‘Start Smart Campaign’ which covered housekeeping and Tidy Friday. It also included a ‘defect app’ which enabled the site to take photographs of any examples of poor housekeeping and email these for the attention of the relevant subcontractors.
  • A new company website and Twitter account was provided for internal/external communication of company values, as well as a company information and sustainability target board.
  • A mirror was included in the site hut to enable employees to check their appearance before going off site.
  • Heron Bros met with local community representatives and provided an overview of the company, the project and programme, as well as Heron Bros’ planned community engagements.
  • Relations with the local residents involved quarterly newsletters, direct mail, information evenings, drop-in surgeries and social media updates.
  • Heron Bros’ website included updates and details of site visits from neighbours.
  • Communication methods also included direct mail to all local schools with an overview of the company, the project and programme of construction.
  • Scheduled drop-in sessions were held for the community and there was extensive outreach to and sponsorship of site visits by schools and colleges.
  • A road widening scheme was planned before any construction works to minimise disruption of construction traffic.
  • Charity initiatives included sponsored walks, sponsorship of a local marathon, significant donations to schools for charities of their choice, sponsorship of local sports associations, local charity support and supporting activities such as the Battle of the Somme 100 years commemorations.
  • A Scheme champion provided significant support including conducting public surveys, questionnaires and engagement in relation to careers advice. This included presenting a Careers Fair for the travelling community in Belfast and providing details of job opportunities on site.
  • Outreach to the travelling community was further developed by partnering with a local Toybox Project and working in conjunction with a Toybox Project Worker to engage with traveller children and deliver a ‘World of Construction’ programme. This was aimed at promoting construction as a future career option for traveller children and to promote equality and inclusion from an early age.
  • Numerous channels of communication with the community included information evenings, drop in sessions, site visits, newsletters and social media, including Facebook and YouTube.
  • Vulnerable residents were contacted directly through the community centre, who communicated with up to 50 vulnerable residents every day, to relay the project progress and details of any disruptive works.
  • Noise monitoring was completed on each activity and ambiance monitored around the site perimeter.
  • A water harvesting system was in place to collect water and use for dampening down during dusty periods.
  • Wildlife retention areas were identified and urban biodiversity was promoted through imaginative use of materials, including bird, swift and bat boxes made from recycled materials such as timber and old hard hats.
  • There was extensive promotion of environmental issues at the local community meetings and via newsletters.
  • The site team took first class steps to protect and enhance the environment and committed to a Resource Efficiency Workshop.
  • A carbon offsetting approach was developed through a landscaping plan to include 1,000 trees and shrubbery, in partnership with the client.
  • Wild flower seeds were sown along pathways.
  • Environmental management plans were deployed, including WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), and a site-specific induction was carried out.
  • A weather station recorded the weather pattern and forecast.
  • Heron Brothers Start Smart Campaign encouraged and reminded people to think and act safely.
  • The operations area was isolated from cabins and access was controlled.
  • There was a two-stage sign-in process for the office area by the gateman and biometric controlled entry to operations.
  • Relevant plant machinery was fitted with protection and warning systems/sensors.
  • All suppliers were given cycle safety information.
  • A safety system encourages operatives to report near misses and these are all analysed and communicated accordingly.
  • The site catered for language differences and there were relevant steps in place to cater for the visual/hearing-impaired.
  • The site brought on board paramedics to provide site-wide training for CPR and the use of defibrillators.
  • FORS and CLOCS initiatives included a requirement for all suppliers to be certified or working towards certification, or demonstrating awareness and relevant questions on delivery sign-in sheets.
  • The project management team had exceptionally developed its approach to encourage continuous positive performance, for example through incentives with bonus points awarded to subcontractors on monthly KPIs for SHEQ innovations and demonstrated improvements.
  • To encourage workers to stop smoking, signs were displayed in smoking shelters, with a designated e-smoking area provided to assist the transition between a smoker and non-smoker.
  • The appointed Community Liaison Officer was also a Project Skills Coordinator who maintained a training matrix and conducted Training Needs Analysis, as well as identifying training provision, including the promotion of essential skills for literacy/numeracy training.
  • Drink, Work and Me initiative was highlighted to encourage responsible workforce drinking.
  • Promotion of healthy living events such as Diabetes Week and NHS weight loss and wellbeing programmes, with the pounds lost through exercise and healthy eating converted to money and donated to charity.
  • Workforce facilities were first class and wheelchair accessible, and also included a catering van, new vending machines, canteen equipment, lockers and a shower room.
  • There was a Quiet Room for multi-faith use.
  • Recreation was promoted through participation in and sponsoring/promoting sports facilities. These included exercise classes, cycling, walking and craft fairs, as well as exhibitions through local events calendar promotion.
  • A Wi-Fi zone was made available at rest times near the reception area.
  • The site’s ‘You Said, We Did’ initiative led to the sponsoring of prize draws, teambuilding events and providing breakfast and half-day early finish for holidays, in recognition of all contributions.
  • The company’s innovative Work Smart employability campaign was exceptionally well resourced, focused, and effective, involving targeted recruitment and training plans.
  • Train the Trainer sessions were held for employment vehicles and there were sponsored visits for professionals providing career guidance, education, training or counselling for the unemployed.
  • The range of health promotion initiatives was extended to include information on issues such as nutrition and discounted BUPA rates for company employees.
  • Financial advice included access to qualified company resources such as a personal building planning service and commitments to on-site visits by a qualified financial advisor.
  • E-Learning was exceptionally well promoted through rollout to all Heron Bros Ltd employees who completed the CCS modules.
  • A laundry service was provided to all of those staying away from home, with free drop-off and pick-up. 

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