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As work to transform the Dunstable Downs skyline begins, Fisher German Associate Harriet Godwin speaks about her role and being part of the team delivering a project which is set to make a huge difference to a local community.

I joined Fisher German in January 2020 after seven years working predominantly for the water industry. I was looking for a more varied role and Fisher German gave me that opportunity, and I now work for a variety of clients in the water, electricity, and fibre sectors.

I have a level of responsibility, managing a team of three with another graduate set to join in September, everyone at the firm is given the freedom to go off and do their job, and are trusted to do it well. Although I’m based in Banbury, working for a wide range of clients means that I have a lot of interaction across the different offices which has been an excellent way to integrate myself into the team. That’s certainly a benefit of working in utilities – you get to know so many different colleagues who could be based anywhere.

I’m currently working on an interesting project for UKPN who are currently transforming the Dunstable Downs skyline. The £2 million project began at the start of June and will see 4km of overhead powerlines, along with the 23 towers supporting them, removed and 4.5km of underground cables installed. The project is due to finish in December 2021 and will both enhance views at the highest part of the county, which attracts 750,000 visitors a year, and also boost power supplies for the local area.

It’s a really nice project as it has so many benefits, but it’s not without its complexities. The majority of the site is owned by the National Trust and is within the Dunstable and Whipsnade Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is also a triple Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) housing very rare orchids and butterflies, and the work runs through the middle of it. There are a number of environmental and ecological concerns with working in these types of areas, so we at Fisher German have undertaken a great deal of consultation work with the conservation board and Natural England as well as other local parties.

We have also gained all of the relevant consents for the work, including the statutory ecological consents and planning consents required. We are also the main point of contact for the landowners involved, making it a really varied project.

We have seen high levels of support for the scheme due to the removal of the overhead towers – something which have historically caused problems for the National Trust due to the high level of kite flyers the site attracts. They have even been known to employ teams of people to guard the towers in the past! The local gliding club is also based nearby and is a big supporter of the scheme as members have to avoid them when flying. It’s going to make such a positive difference to everyone who is both living in and visiting the area which is a fantastic thing to be part of.

Being able to make a genuine difference to the lives of others is one of the things I love about working in utilities. The variety also makes it interesting – rather than being desk-based, you get the opportunity to go out on site and actually see the work taking place which makes it all very real. You see first-hand that you’re making a big difference to local communities which actually means something to people.