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SCAPE and Willmott Dixon: A partnership for success


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It's almost fifteen years since Willmott Dixon and SCAPE first collaborated through the first inception of the SCAPE Construction framework, an OJEU compliant, fast direct award procurement mechanism for use in the public sector that would change construction forever.

After delivering more than £5bn of schemes across 575 projects, national framework manager Leanne Day reflects on the success of the partnership.

A 15-year relationship doesn’t just happen overnight, it takes years of hard work and commitment. As businesses grow and change, sometimes it’s easy to forget all the endeavor, problem-solving and determination that goes into creating a success story. This sums up how I feel about Willmott Dixon and the SCAPE Construction framework, a partnership in which all of our people, supply chain partners and customers that have used the procurement route, have a right to feel proud of.

From humble beginnings

In 2005, SCAPE was an acorn in the marketplace, a unique OJEU compliant framework, designed to allow public sector organisations to confidently procure at speed. This potential was about to be realised spectacularly when we came on board in 2006 as its sole construction partner.

Fast forward fifteen years and Willmott Dixon and SCAPE have delivered 575 projects to over 250 different customers, creating everything from essential school places and much needed housing to restoring local cultural icons and entertainment venues that enrich town centres, modern blue light space for people to protect and serve their communities, plus leisure space to enhance health and wellbeing, and important new office accommodation to drive local economic growth. The framework has also been at the forefront of the UK’s Coronavirus response and will be key in delivering the levelling up agendas to kickstart the UK economy post-pandemic.

Customers have seen our teams, through SCAPE, as a means of getting things built quickly, efficiently on time and with no defects, to unlock growth plans.

Leanne Day

National Framework Manager | Willmott Dixon

Creating long term relationships to benefit the community

In the spring of 2020 we handed over the £12.8m ‘Riga’ new office development. A project that delivered the first Grade-A office building in the Gateshead Quays area for over a decade, it was our 11th with Gateshead Council, a relationship that has seen us invest £64m with local businesses within 20 miles of our projects.

Riga was special to me as we were able to generate £525,928 (66%) of the project spend during April and May 2020 within 20 miles of the building. This was critical for keeping local businesses afloat during the first lockdown.

Gateshead office 21

Supporting the NHS at a critical time

We have played an integral role in the UK’s coronavirus response, supporting the NHS through delivering critical infrastructure in the most stringent of timelines. Working as a geographically diverse business across England and Wales, we were able to meet a range of needs.

Procured via SCAPE, our team in Wales worked tirelessly at the University Hospital Wales (Heath). As part of the hospital’s rapid response, we converted an existing physiotherapy department room to provide 35 ICU beds, split between a 15-bed ward, two 9-bed wards and two single occupancy rooms.

Our pandemic support work was also evident at East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, where our Interiors team handed over the facility two weeks early to enable the hospital to manage demand for care. Furthermore, at Royal Berkshire Hospital, we were able to take on a rapid refurbishment of their A&E facilities as part of the hospital’s winter pressures reconfiguration to enable social distancing.

Through SCAPE Construction, all of these projects have enabled our NHS to react to the challenges of the pandemic and I am grateful for the can-do attitudes of our teams and partners to make these projects happen.

Delivering for people who serve our communities

Social value is at the heart of the framework and this is particularly evident in our work for West Midlands Police. Through a relationship spanning nine years, delivering over £104m of projects including a £28m refurbishment of their headquarters at Lloyd House in 2016, we have been able to generate over £10.9m of social value in the community.

Lloyd House 7

Award winning refurbishment and recladding

Through the framework, we have been able to transform residential buildings, breathing new life into people’s homes through refurbishment. While the outcome is always welcomed, the management of our works around the resident’s welfare is critical to the success of the project.

One example that really stands out is our work at Gateshead HEIGHTs, a £19.6m refurbishment of seven high-rise tower blocks and recladding of one of the buildings to create a modern and energy-efficient living environment for a community across 621 homes.

As the project required access to residents' homes to fit new energy-efficient systems such as heating, double-glazed windows and radiators, as well as external recladding works, a strong community engagement strategy was required to ensure access to properties and residents’ buy-in to the scheme.

As part of the engagement strategy, we worked closely with Gateshead Council, who ran consultation events for residents on a ‘drop-in’ basis and produced FAQs for all questions raised, that were then distributed to all residents. This achieved an approval rate of over 60%, allowing the project to proceed. Following this, pre-commencement workshops were undertaken and our resident liaison officers (RLOs) set up monthly ‘clinics’ to listen to concerns. Designated block ‘ambassadors’ were nominated six months before going on-site, giving us a valuable point of contact.

As the project was to last 66 weeks, we were aware of the impact the longevity of the works could have on the mental health of the residents. Consequently, we hosted mental health awareness days and our RLOs helped residents with mental health issues heightened by ongoing work in the buildings. Updates throughout the project were frequent and communicated to the residents via the Service Improvement Groups and regular newsletters. This was coupled with an open-door policy with weekly drop-in sessions for residents.

The great work from our residential engagement team and the exceptional effort of RLO Clare Lewis was recognised at the 2019 Construction News awards, winning ‘Community Engagement Project of the Year’. A judge commented “On the face of it, Willmott Dixon’s Gateshead Heights scheme was simple and impersonal. But the judges were blown away by the manner in which the contractor had turned it into a project that was all about people”, we see this model as a blueprint for future residential engagement.

One to keep an eye on

As the UK looks to boost the economy as part of its post-pandemic plans, the SCAPE Construction framework will be instrumental as a mechanism for enabling its levelling up and regeneration plans to flourish.

Leanne Day

National Framework Manager | Willmott Dixon

A key example of this is the work we are carrying out in Nottingham to breathe new life into the city, through the development of the Broadmarsh Centre.

Nottingham City Council has secured £8m from D2N2, the Local Enterprise Partnership, along with a further £4m from the Transforming Cities fund. The council will also use the Getting Building fund to produce a new master plan to transform the whole of the former Broadmarsh centre. A further £4m will be used to create a new open street between 2 parts of the city. We have started demolition works and look forward to supporting the further stages of the project.

The examples above show a snapshot of how SCAPE and Willmott Dixon have worked in collaboration to deliver brilliant buildings and transform our communities, we look forward to progressing our relationship and continue generating prosperity in the regions we serve.

Written by:

Leanne Day
SCAPE national framework manager