Jake Heslop

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We spoke with Jack Heslop, Civil Engineer in WSP's water team, to find out more about his role as a WSP changemaker in coastal defences...

I love walking along the coast and, for me, an understanding of the natural processes at work – sea levels rising, cliffs eroding, beaches being built up – adds to the enjoyment. I work in WSP’s water team, specialising in the economic cases for coastal defences.

With a whole range of expertise in the team, we tackle some of the really big questions facing coastal communities today. How will sea level rise resulting from climate change affect different parts of the coastline? How can we make the economic case for coastal protection stack up? At what point does the increasing flood risk from the sea outweigh its benefits?

"The world needs changemakers who think differently about the really big questions of our time."

Jack HeslopCivil Engineer, WSP UK

To find answers we begin by understanding coastal communities and the risks they face and sharing this with local people. For one flood-hit community, we showed that, despite their fears, recent flooding was very unlikely to be repeated. We were able to put their minds at rest in an hour-long public meeting, but it took days of work behind the scenes – analysing flood risk exhaustively, creating a detailed hydraulic model.

Other communities are facing much more risk from sea level rise and extreme weather, and I’m proud to have been part of projects to protect areas such as Looe in Cornwall and Weymouth and Poole in Dorset. In the future, we need greater public awareness of climate change so we can work with coastal communities to help them find a way forward.

The scale of such challenges shows why the world needs changemakers who think differently about the really big questions of our time – people like Elon Musk. The Brunel of today, he believes that just because new forms of sustainable transport, off-world living, or artificial intelligence haven’t been done before doesn’t mean they can’t be done now.

And I believe that, as a civil engineer, it’s my duty to think like that too – to be a changemaker.

The WSP Changemakers are keeping coastlines safe and communities protected so everyone can enjoy the sea air.

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