Environment Agency Water and Environment Management Framework

The Environment Agency’s water and environment management (WEM) framework replaced their previous strategic flood risk management and national contractor frameworks as their main asset delivery vehicle for flood and coastal risk management activities. The framework was a stepping stone from the purely competitively tendered construction packages that came before, to the fully collaborative and integrated working we see today on the Next Generation Supplier Framework.


The purpose of the framework was to help the Environment Agency protect 300,000 homes, deliver environmental improvements, and help communities prepare for the effects of climate change and rising sea levels. The Environment Agency looked to lead the way in sustainability and introduce efficiencies through the packaging of work as design and build projects.

The framework award represented our third consecutive term as a delivery partner to the Environment Agency and was built on the strong record of delivery we had built over the previous decade.

What we did

We formed a joint venture with design partner, Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, and dredging and offshore engineering specialist, Boskalis Westminster. Our joint venture, known as VBA (to represent the first letters of our respective businesses), allowed us to meet the full range of coastal and fluvial design and build schemes delivered through the framework and allowed us to work with partners with whom we have enjoyed long relationships and have aligned cultures.

We went on to deliver circa £350 million of flood risk management work. We designed and built flood and coastal defences across the length and breadth of England - from Northumberland in the northeast to Clacton-on-Sea on the south coast, and from Morecambe on the north west coast to Ipswich in East Anglia.

We built sheet piled and concrete flood walls, formed earth embankments, replaced failing culverts, created flood storage reservoirs, installed sea walls and rock revetments, built pumping stations, and created a new wetland habitat.

We displayed engineering excellence across dozens of projects to protect communities from flooding and won over 60 accolades along the way. At Ipswich, we designed and built the UK’s first tidal defence barrier in nearly 40 years, winning an Institution of Civil Engineering (ICE) (East of England) Exceptional Merit for Technical Excellence and Innovation and the Constructing Excellence (South East) Civils Project of the Year Award. At Fairhaven, we gained extensive industry recognition for our work to protect 2,425 properties from coastal erosion and flooding, including an ICE (North West) Sustainability Award. We won the Asset Management award at the Environment Agency’s Project Excellence awards for our flood incident response work in Cumbria and Lancashire in 2015/16.

As we often constructed defences adjacent to properties or in busy public spaces, we strived to deliver award-winning public engagement. We built relationships and trust by integrating teams into communities through sponsored events, beach cleans and litter picks, school visits and charity fundraisers. We won 14 Considerate Constructors Awards for our efforts, including three ‘Golds’.

We were the contractor of choice when the Environment Agency needed to deliver work at pace. We delivered three key asset recovery packages to repair flood-damaged assets and were awarded three regional packages to fast-track works to help the Environment Agency meet government delivery targets. In both cases, we were entrusted with more packages than other framework contractors.

We made sustainability central to the framework by running annual sustainability expos to share ideas and best practices. Over 200 VolkerStevin staff, clients and suppliers attended. We helped the Environment Agency consolidate 14 lengthy environmental directives into a user-friendly Sustainability Toolkit spreadsheet which helped our teams identify and implement sustainable outcomes, e.g. we repaired sections of Morecambe’s sea wall rather than replacing the whole structure. This also saved £1m.

Project successes

As a delivery partner on the framework we played an important role in helping the Environment Agency achieve their key outcomes. Our work has helped to protect homes, kept families safe, and supported communities to become more resilient.

In March 2021 Steve Moore, Director of Operations, Asset and Programme Management at the Environment Agency said: “This week, the Environment Agency and its Delivery Partners mark a truly significant achievement – the successful completion of the largest and most ambitious flood and coastal protection programme ever undertaken in England! Because of your work and dedication, we have achieved this incredible milestone – on time, on budget, and through extraordinary circumstances. The work you and all those in your teams do was instrumental in reaching this ambitious and worthy goal.”

Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, said: “The success of this programme is measured in numbers - 700 projects, 300,000 homes, nearly 600,000 acres of agricultural land, thousands of businesses and major pieces of infrastructure, on time and within budget. However, the sense of security these protections bring to people, and the benefits to nature, can’t easily be demonstrated on a spreadsheet."

“I pay tribute to our skilled teams and our partners who have worked so hard to achieve this – it’s not easy to bring major infrastructure projects in on time and on budget. The Environment Agency’s six-year flood defence building programme has done exactly that, better protecting 300,000 homes against the damage and misery of flooding.”

Sir James Bevan Chief Executive of the Environment Agency