Bringing new infrastructure to market

12th August 2022

Portobello Road Market – London’s bustling destination for shopping, souvenirs and iconic scenes – is now supported by a revitalised and future-proofed gas infrastructure network thanks to a recent Cadent Gas replacement project completed in time for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

The centuries-old pipes underneath the feet of the tens of thousands of locals and tourists who visit the market each year had served this historic location well, but needed to be upgraded in a careful manner to ensure businesses, market stalls and community facilities continued to run smoothly.

Cadent and Morrison Energy Services carried out an efficient upgrade of ageing gas pipes to replace the underground infrastructure with more durable materials. The scheme involved replacing large diameter pipe and ‘rail installation’ – implementing small plastic feeder gas mains alongside large diameter gas mains – to provide gas to homes and businesses and ensure greater resilience in the future as demand on the gas network grows.

Working closely with Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council, Cadent and Morrison undertook extensive planning and stakeholder engagement before starting work in 2020 and continued a programme of ongoing community consultation ahead of each phase. The project had the potential to cause significant disruption to market traders and visitors, but thoughtful collaboration with key stakeholders ensured we were able to accommodate requests and solve problems before they occurred.

Ahead of work taking place between July 2020 and March 2021 along Oxford Gardens, Golborne Road and Westbourne Park Road, we deployed a dedicated community relations team to inform stall holders, business owners and residents of the need for – and benefits of – the replacement programme. Following a break in construction, we re-engaged with everyone impacted by the scheme to seek their views on the best timing and traffic management methods for the remainder of the work, which took place from January to June 2022 between Westbourne Park Road and Chepstow Villas.

While the work for the final phase didn’t start till early this year, we began engaging with Council and other key stakeholders, the local community, and market traders at the beginning of 2021 culminating in an official consultation period in November 2021 to take on board the feedback and preferences of stakeholders who may have been impacted by construction. This was followed by a final consultation period in March 2022 to check that our partners and stakeholders were satisfied with our approach, ahead of the last stretch of work completed before the Jubilee weekend.

We used innovative street signage, a dedicated contact centre and freephone hotline, local events and street stalls, and regular meetings to liaise with local representatives and communicate about upcoming work. We also provided a toolkit of information and materials for Portobello Road Market’s website and social media channels, ensuring anyone interested in the market could understand what to expect during this essential upgrade.

A project-specific website, updated weekly during the most intensive stages of the project, provided up-to-date information on the latest construction activity and road closures. A fortnightly newsletter also enabled fast updates and regular profiles of the site team, so that local recipients could get to know the professionals delivering the upgrade in their local area.

Stakeholders we also kept informed via letter drops and postcards, and our team regularly knocked on the doors of businesses along Portobello Road to answer their questions and respond to requests.

One resident commented that she had a 60-year memory of the infrastructure along Portobello Road, and told us the mains replacement programme was a welcome relief. “I wish to personally commend your staff and the quality of their work,” she noted. “The market is very crowded and complicated; your people have gone to unprecedented lengths to engage with residents, business and market traders, and every enquiry is dealt with politely and cheerfully. Cadent is making remarkable progress with the least possible nuisance to the community.”

From the feedback received, our programme was amended to work in a way that enabled us to get the job done before deadline while accommodating pauses during busy times for the market and local stores. It was clear that stakeholders preferred work to be carried out in smaller sections at a time to ensure that only one junction at a time was impacted, rather than more disruptive larger road closures.

As a result of the safe and speedy work from our team on the ground, by Easter 2022, we were operating significantly ahead of schedule. During the final round of consultation to listen to feedback and gather preferences for an updated programme of work, we asked stakeholders if they would rather we stayed on site throughout Easter to complete the work as fast as possible, or temporarily backfill our sites and return after Easter to complete work by mid-June 2022. The latter option received the overwhelming support of stakeholders, and so we paused work for Easter and returned at an appropriate time to finish all construction activity on 1 June 2022.

Thanks to the positive relationships maintained by the team working on the Portobello Road project, we were able to work quickly and effectively to ensure that stakeholders were regularly kept updated throughout the scheme, were listened to and were included in design and delivery. The significant investment in the gas mains replacement programme is crucial to providing safe and reliable energy to homes and businesses, reducing the amount of unplanned work to repair ageing gas pipes – and we appreciated the opportunity to safely deliver such a critical upgrade ahead of schedule at a remarkable site.

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