£9m Forest regeneration project delayed by lack of local contract bids
By David Wood | 17th April 2023
A multi-million pound redevelopment in the Forest of Dean attracted no bids from local contractors.
The Five Acres Site Redevelopment Project at Berry Hill, near Coleford, is set to provide a new build public leisure centre and will include the refurbishment of the adjacent Speedwell building for a mixture of community and educational uses.
But Cllr Paul Hiett, communities and climate emergency cabinet member, has revealed that although a total of 30 companies expressed an interest in bidding for the contract for the design and build of the scheme, none of them submitted a bid.
Cllr Hiett said: "We put it out for tender with the idea of giving local businesses an opportunity to bid on it. We had 30 expressions of interest but nobody came through because it's an enormous job.
"We've now changed it to a different type of bidding where local businesses will still be able to get involved but some of the bigger players will now be able to bid into that process. We've written into it that we want them to use local businesses either as contractors and the rest of it.
"All it's done is literally put us back maybe a month or two months but it's important to us as a cabinet that we gave local businesses the first opportunity."
Cllr Hiett said he would be speaking to council officers later today about whether any of the 'bigger players' had expressed an interest in the development.
He added: "We had 30 expressions of interest before, I'm sure we will get some now. It's not really in limbo, it's just a slight delay.
"It's going to mean that some of the bigger players who have got better economies of scale for the project will look to take part now.
"We've had some conversations with some businesses. One of the stipulations is that we encourage them to use local sub-contractors, local suppliers etc. That was the idea in the first instance to keep it as in house to the Forest and the county as possible, but our good intentions in trying to do the right thing have backfired a little bit. I'm happy to be in limbo to try to do the right thing."
Forest of Dean District Council completed the purchase of the site from Homes England for £1 in December 2021. The project is set to create new leisure, enterprise, education and community facilities for the Forest.
Having been successful in its £20m bid to the Government's Levelling Up Fund in 2021, the £9 million-plus project is largely funded by the Levelling Up fund with a requirement to expend this by the end of March 2025.
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