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£60k house bidders bale out with more to follow

NEWS - English Partnerships braced for high drop-out rate as firms battle to meet July deadline

ENGLISH Partnerships is bracing itself for more bidders to pull out of its £60,000 homes competition in Milton Keynes.

The regeneration agency confirmed this week that two of the 33 teams have baled out of the race - and admitted more will follow suit.

Corporate strategy director Trevor Beattie declined to name the pair but said: 'We were expecting some people to withdraw and if that number rises it wouldn't surprise me.'

Some bidders expect up to one third to give up with others predicting that around half will withdraw.

English Partnerships has already had to extend its July 1 deadline by a further two weeks because it was worried the short bidding timetable would compromise the quality of entries.

But some attacked the decision to extend the deadline. Keepmoat chairman Dick Watson said:

'We would have been ready. If firms couldn't meet the July 1 deadline they should have been disqualified.'

The remaining 31 teams have to bid the scheme at Oxley Park in Milton Keynes but English Partnerships has lined up a further nine sites which successful teams can target individually.

Bidders have privately complained that the competition involves wading through mountains of paperwork and the rewards on offer - to build 1,000 homes across the 10 sites - are not worth it.

One well-known bidder told Construction News: 'What they're asking for is unbelievable, the paperwork is over 150 pages. I'm not sure we think it's that much of an attractive proposition now.'

But Mr Beattie defended the procurement process and denied the amount of paperwork was onerous. He said: 'The alternative was to produce very little and then have to keep issuing supplemental documents.The idea of this is that it is a rapid competition.'

Around a dozen teams will be shortlisted for the work by the middle of August with groups of two or three teams then being lined up to bid each site the following month.

Preferred bidders for the 10 sites will be announced by the end of the year with confirmation planned for the end of next January.Work on the first sites will start next spring.david. rogers@emap. com