Laying foundations for competition

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Laying foundations for competition

(Thames Water's Alex Walker meets workers from Aquamain) 

Thames Water is picking up plaudits for promoting competition in the development sector.

The company’s developer services team is working increasingly closely with self-lay providers, who lay mains and connect new properties at sites across the region.

It currently works with around 30 self-lay providers, or SLPs, but the sector is expanding from its origins in northern England, and SLPs now play an important role in enabling housing growth across London and the Thames Valley.  

Rob Hughes, Thames Water’s self-lay programme manager, said: “SLPs help us enable growth by supporting the huge volume of connection activity across our region. We’re also required by our regulator, Ofwat, to explain that customers have a choice.

“We’re implementing a wide range of changes aimed at making SLPs’ work easier. For example, we’ll provide free mapping information, to allow them to quote for work without paying search costs or visiting our offices."

The team also invite self-lay providers to regular forums to hear their collective feedback as part of the company’s push to be open and transparent in everything it does.

Rob added: “Several have told us we’re leading the field in making clear to developers that they have a choice over who provides these services. It’s good to know we’re heading in the right direction.”

Among the pledges in their recently-published improvement plan, the developer services team have also committed to reduce the time taken to deliver water meters, provide training so SLPs can take their own water quality samples and create a guide for developers, explaining the potential benefits of using SLP.

And the team are spreading the word across Thames Water so staff who deal with SLPs – such as network service technicians – understand the world of self-lay and demonstrate a collaborative approach.  

It’s part of a wider review of communications – also encompassing the team’s website, application forms and email templates – to make sure the option to use an SLP is clearly signposted to developers.

Rob said: “As self-lay providers have reminded us, our key customer – the developer – is theirs as well. It makes sense for us to strengthen our relationship, with the common aim of providing a great service.”