With a nationwide housing shortfall and many high streets in urgent need of renewal, planning teams across the UK are focused on breathing life into unused or run-down urban areas. However, managing projects in densely-populated towns and cities can bring increased risk. How can project managers ensure they are delivering projects to high standard, safely and securely?

Consider the project’s surroundings

When activities are being carried out within built-up areas or adjacent to buildings where large numbers of people live or work, a robust and professional risk management approach is required. The risks associated with such projects must be carefully assessed and mitigation strategies put in place, taking account of cost and time uncertainties.


Think outside the ‘triangle’

Often, the key risks and benefits associated with urban projects go beyond the common project management ‘triangle’ of time, cost and quality. For example, a project might benefit the local community by providing more job opportunities or delivering social value through the creation of a community park.

Projects may need to develop a detailed community engagement strategy to update local stakeholders on progress and consult where necessary. This could involve activities such as letter drops, webinars, community workshops and establishing specific lines of communication for any project-related queries or concerns, to keep local people and businesses updated on the potential impacts of project delivery.


Cooperation and open communication 

 To mitigate the wide-ranging risks linked to town centre expansion, strong negotiation skills and joined-up thinking are essential. For example, if road closures or other transport-related disruption is necessary, there could be a risk of delays as consents will be required from local operators. Such risks should be considered fully at planning stage.

For project managers, understanding the project’s business case and specific objectives is essential. Often, projects rely on securing buy in from a variety of stakeholders, from local MPs and council members, to transport operators, local businesses and residents. Effective communication skills are obviously important as part of this process.


Risk tolerability

Risk tolerability calculations can play a useful role in helping to establish what constitutes an acceptable level of risk. Once this level is determined, it can provide a useful decision-making tool and assist in budget setting. Risk tolerability can be calculated in a number of ways. One of the most common involves scoring each risk according to its probability and impact. The project team can then agree the upper limit in terms of risk tolerability and any plans to exceed this, would trigger a need for investment in mitigation measures.


Sticking to project objectives and considering risk tolerability at every stage should enable project managers to deliver high-quality urban projects on time and on budget.


First published at PBC Today