South West Water managing director dies aged 60
South West Water managing director Dr Stephen Bird has died at the age of 60.
The company confirmed in a statement that Bird died on 10 May after suffering complications that resulted from a short illness.
He is succeeded by his wife, Hilary, their four children James, Hannah, Oliver and Harry, and grandchildren Jack and Reuben. The family described him as "a dedicated and loving family man who was incredibly generous of spirit", adding: "He leaves a huge hole in our hearts.”
Bird joined South West Water in 1992 and took on the role as managing director in 2016.
During nearly three decades at the company, he oversaw transformative work to improve the water company’s environmental record following privatisation, including through the £2 billion Clean Sweep programme of bathing water quality improvements carried out in the 90s and early 2000s, which was the largest environmental clean-up of its kind in Europe.
South West Water described him as "one of the most influential figures in the South West business and environmental communities" as well as a "formidable leader and gifted speaker and negotiator remembered as having an ‘encyclopaedic’ knowledge of science, environmental matters and more."
The company added: "With his interest in emerging technologies and his meticulous attention to process and detail, he played a key role in helping to reposition the company as a pioneer within the water industry.
"A proud Plymouthian, his legacy also includes the recently constructed Mayflower Drinking Water Treatment Works, which will serve the city and its surrounding area using cutting-edge technology from late 2019 onwards."
Tim Jones, chairman of the South West Business Council, also paid tribute to Bird.
“Stephen will prove to be one of the most significant influences in the South West in his generation,” he said in the Plymouth Herald. “He was able to address huge financial and technical problems and take them in his stride.
“He was able to make decisions not only for the benefit of his company but for the benefit of the region’s economy. That is what makes him such a big loss.”
David Heath, Western chair of the Consumer Council for Water, added: “This is shocking and very sad news. Stephen was a man who commanded enormous respect and affection across the water industry and the South West.
"His vast experience was a tremendous asset to South West Water but, most importantly, he had a clear vision of what a water company ought to offer its customers and the wider community. He was instrumental in driving up standards locally and nationally.
“My sympathies are with his family and his colleagues. He will be greatly missed.”
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