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Doing business in the East Midlands: clients and projects

Where to find work in the East Midlands


The Highways Agency is by some distance the biggest client in the region with £979m worth of work ongoing.

The agency has a transparent procurement process on its website, with all of the conditions and criteria available to interested contractors. And while the big highways projects, like the widening of the M1 between junctions 25-28 are tied up, there are ample opportunities for subcontractors.

As Mr Walker says of the Morgan Est, Vinci and Sir Robert McAlpine joint venture to widen the M1: “if you drove along by the site and didn’t know anything about the regional supply chain, you would think the main contractors on the site were small local firms, from all the boards alongside the work.

“We are also working with the Midlands Highways Alliance, which is dominated by the East Midlands. It is looking to set up a similar framework agreement to Scape’s, for small scale roadworks projects like roundabouts, road widening and general improvements.”

Lincolnshire County council is inviting tenders for £400m of works, with a scheme made up of the maintenance, improvement and management of the public highway network covering general and structural maintenance, new works, winter maintenance, street lighting, surface dressing and other specialist services.


The former Merlin Works development on Bath Lane in Leicester has been a big casualty. The mixed use development which includes a 22 storey block of flats, a 27 storey block and a seven storey podium building to house 354 apartments, remains on the drawing board.

Walker expects positive noises among housebuilders to percolate throughout the East Midlands but fears that even if the intention is there, lack of skills could leave them with little ability to actually deliver.

“Some of the construction professionals I see have been out of work for six or nine months,” he says, “because they put their eggs all in one basket with certain housebuilders.

“Some of them have had to move on and find work in other sectors.”

Opportunities remain for housebuilders which have managed to keep their numbers up, and a spokesperson at Radleigh Homes in Derby says the company has cleaned up on new projects in recent weeks.

David Wilson Homes, an East Midlands subsidiary of Barratt Homes, has beaten its internal forecasts for completions at 635, despite a depressed market. Sales director Philip Lacey says the figure suggests life is returning to the market.


The region was hurt by the Learning and Skills Council’s failure to deliver funds for the refurbishment of West Nottinghamshire College, which had been given a provisional green light for a £28m scheme, and has now been mothballed.

But education still represented the biggest single construction sector in the region for the first six months of 2009, with £135m awarded to Nottingham Council for the second wave of the government’s Building Schools for the Future programme.

Derby City and North East Lincolnshire have been given the go ahead for 14 and nine schools respectively, and are in the process of selecting bidders for their schemes. More waves are also likely as the government brings forward local authority applications for schools.

Refurbishment of the Arkwright and Newton buildings at Nottingham Trent University with construction of additional teaching buildings is also underway and due for completion during 2011. Works are to include enabling, landscaping, sewer systems, access and infrastructure.


The £400m Broadmarsh Shopping Centre has been the region’s biggest mothballed project and reflects the difficult climate for private developments. “Retail is really down,” says Mr Walker. “We are probably following the national pattern there. We think it is down around 15-16 per cent but it could be even worse.”

Shops and restaurants or cafes on the ground floor of the stalled former Merlin Works mixed use development also total 257 sq m of retail space which is currently on hold. Mixed use developments worth £20m and £25m in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, and Swadlincote, Derbyshire have also been iced.


The £850m Staythorpe Power Station in Newark, Nottinghamshire is the biggest single project in the region. Along with the civils and M&E work on the West Burton power station in Nottinghamshire, it makes up over a £1bn worth of work in the East Midlands. But with largely specialist skills required for pipeline projects, Walker fears the sector will bring precious few additional jobs to the region.


The region is still counting the cost from the collapse of the £711m Leicester Pathway Project which included work on three hospitals in the city.

Potential £200m cost overruns for the joint venture between Serco, John Laing and Laing O’Rourke led to the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust pulling the plug on the PFI project in 2007, and investment in health has not recovered. Health accounted for only £48m worth of work started on site this year, compared with a full year figure of £156m in 2008, according to Glenigan.

The £40m extension of the Cliftonville Mental Health Facility in Northampton, which began at the end of 2008, shows that there is still work going on. It is scheduled to go on until the end of 2010. The £30m construction of the Therapeutic Core Building at Rampton Hospital in Nottinghamshire also reaches completion in 2010. But they are comparatively small beer. “The collapse of the PFI project really hurt us” says Mr Walker.

Useful links

East Midlands Development

EMCBE East Midlands Centre for constructing the Built

Scape System Build is a local authority controlled company, developing a framework for East Midlands work

East Midlands Property Alliance has been formed by local authorities in the East Midlands to improve the delivery of property services to their communities

Highways Agency Projects available for tender