We are determined to make a positive difference to the region and communities we serve, and have decided to measure our performance through a Community Perception ODI. In 2018/19, a survey of customers found 57 per cent of those asked agreed that we care about the communities we serve. This is a rise from 52 per cent in 2016/17 and we have committed to increase this to 60 per cent by 2019/20.
We aim to make a long-term difference to the communities in which we work.
This can be seen in our education programme, our employee volunteering programme and our work on projects such as Wisbech Beyond 2020, which has helped that community create their vision of the future.
We brought together our supply chain companies with local community and educational leaders, the local council and MP to launch a campaign to reconnect the town to the rail network. This was integrated into council travel plans, won funding through devolution deals and progressed into Network Rail's investment appraisals process. We have also supported the council and the local community in exploring what sustainable, resilient development could look like. This has resulted in a proposal for a new, climate-resilient Garden Town development.
For many years we have been active in the Prince of Wales' Responsible Business Network, Business in the Community (BITC). Every year BITC celebrates leadership in responsible business. In July 2017 we were honoured to be named Responsible Business of the Year – one of the UK's highest accolades for business – in recognition of our Love Every Drop strategy, which seeks to put water at the heart of a more sustainable way of living. This award is given to companies that put social and environmental concerns at the heart of their strategy, demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and embed it in the culture of their entire business and supply chain.
While our year as Business in the Community’s (BITC) Responsible Business of the Year came to an end in July 2018, our work as a responsible business has grown, and over the past year, we have been working with BITC to develop a new, business-led place-making strategy.
A national Place Leadership team has been established and, based on our experiences in Wisbech and BITC’s work across the country, a strategy has been developed that has enabled three businesses to come forward to commit to driving community regeneration in three new locations.
This includes Lowestoft, where as Chair of BITC’s Regional Advisory Board we are working with partner companies, in particular Kier, to support the people of the town to realise their vision of regeneration.
We continue to operate at the heart of two education initiatives to develop the technical skills of 14- to 19-year-olds and provide opportunity for employment to the next generation. We are the lead sponsor of the Greater Peterborough University Technical College (GPUTC), which opened in September 2016 and aims to provide a world-class technical education with an emphasis on sustainable engineering and construction. The academic and industry sponsors shape the curriculum and offer employer projects that will bring the learning to life. Anglian Water and its civil engineering alliance partners are also sponsoring two BTEC courses at the College of West Anglia in Wisbech, which more than 80 students have now completed. We also opened the Wisbech Technical Training and Development Centre, specialising in engineering. These activities will help us to find the skilled employees of the future. We continue to take people into our graduate and apprenticeship programmes, and are now offering paid summer internships.
We also make a significant positive contribution to our communities through our water parks, visited by more than two and a half million people a year. They offer the chance to spend time outdoors in a variety of pursuits – from fishing and sailing to walking, cycling, wildlife watching and more.
Our parks cover more than 4,428 hectares of parkland, woodland, nature reserves and water, most of it around our reservoirs at Rutland, Grafham, Alton, Pitsford, Ravensthorpe and Hollowell, and at Taverham Mill outside Norwich.
While the long summer of 2018 saw visitors flocking to the parks to enjoy the sunshine, the exceptional high temperatures and the duration of the summer also provided the perfect climate for blue-green algae and, like a number of inland waters, we suffered an unprecedented bloom at Alton Water in Suffolk, which resulted in us taking the precaution to close access to the water during July, August and September.
Despite the algae, Alton Water opened the gates to its brand new 88-pitch campsite, delivering 900 overnight stays to holidaying guests.
We have led the field in providing safe swimming access at some of our parks. Rutland Water opens part of its shores to create the UK’s largest inland beach between July and August each year, and Aqua Park, the floating assault course, secured its place at Alton Water, following its huge success at Rutland Water over the past three years. We also continue to welcome thousands of runners to our parks, including official competitions such as the first Night Run at Rutland Water, which attracted 1,200 runners, and we hosted the World Lure Fishing Championships, also at Rutland, which welcomed anglers from 16 countries around the globe.
Grafham Water, for the first year, joined already-accredited Rutland Water in achieving accreditation through Visit England’s Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme.
Each of our seven parks retained Green Flag status, which recognises well-managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for the management of recreational outdoor spaces across the UK and around the world.
Our education centres at Chelmsford and Leighton Linslade opened in 2007 to engage current and future customers on issues such as water conservation and responsible use of the sewer network. We are also improving the prospects of many more young people through long-term partnerships with schools in our region; widening students' horizons, extending their aspirations and equipping them with valuable skills for later life.
Our Community Education team has seen 355,693 people since it formed, including more than 28,000 children in 2016/17. The team carried out 270 school visits last year, delivering free sessions in more than 170 different schools. The programme continues to evolve in response to changes in the curriculum and to business needs. In 2016/17, there was a focus on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) related activities, linked to employability skills and expanding students' knowledge of careers within Anglian Water.
We support National Women in Engineering Day and this year we invited more than 200 students from seven Huntingdonshire secondary schools to take part in science and engineering challenges, meeting engineers from Anglian Water and our alliance partner companies. The children completed a range of challenges and were encouraged to consider engineering as a career. As a result, 99 per cent of the girls who attended said they learnt something about engineering and 94 per cent were more positive about it.