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Industry hits out as Beckton plant training centre closes

Contractors have echoed Crossrail’s fears about industry training capability after an east London plant training centre was closed to accommodate an Olympics car park.

Construction News revealed in December that senior industry figures were trying to prevent the National Construction College East London - Beckton Park training centre closing (see box).

These efforts have been unsuccessful, and Crossrail head of skills and employment Claire Parry and leaders of major contractors were among those to express their frustration at the decision.

Now members of the National Construction College are in talks with National Grid about using land at Galleons Reach Docklands Light Railway station for a new centre.

Site investigation will have to take place to ensure the land is not contaminated. The NCC wants to use the land free of charge and planning permission to alter the use of the site will be required before any move can be made.

Training courses have been divided between existing NCC sites for now, with staff also reassigned to other training centres including the Ilford Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy.

Vinci chief executive and chairman John Stanion said he was “really disappointed” at the move.

“While the training centre can no doubt eventually be relocated, this will take time and disrupt the very valuable facilities and training programmes at a time when the industry is crying out for skilled workers,” he said.

Thomas Vale managing director Tony Hyde called on ministers and Mayor of London Boris Johnson to intervene and said the move was a “retrograde” step.

He said: “Thomas Vale, our supply chain and the wider construction sector have used the Beckton training centre over many years and always found delivery to be first rate.

“We do not understand why this decision has been made.

“We need highly trained and professional labour and management, and cutting back this facility will have a major negative impact on a sector undertaking 10 per cent of GDP, with major schemes coming.”

Ms Parry told CN she was concerned, as training was a requirement for Crossrail and plant training cannot be facilitated at the nearby TUCA due to size constraints.

“Our contractors all need people who are trained in plant and we need to source that training somewhere. It would obviously be better if that facility was nearer, rather than far away,” she said.

A London Development Agency spokesman said the site had always been earmarked for development with a preferred developer for the 35-acre Royal Albert Dock site due to be selected by September 2012.

He added that the LDA had received strong interest for the site as a possible major centre for hi-tech industry and that it had always intended to be used short-term for the plant training centre.

NCC director Andy Walder said he was hopeful the LDA and Greater London Assembly would help facilitate the move to a new site, but he was frustrated by the process “[particularly] when you think you have some land for a period of time and then you are asked to exit at short notice”.

A Locog spokeswoman said the new depot at the site will be an “integral part of delivering a successful Olympic Games”.

She added that the depot is “not just a car park; it is an operations and service centre” and a “major facility that supports the operations of the 2012 Games” incorporating a control centre and vehicle maintenance services.

Plea for help

In December, industry leaders including chief executives of Balfour Beatty, Wates and Bam Construct wrote to Olympics minister Hugh Robertson and skills minister John Hayes.

They said the “forced closure of a unique training centre in east London at this time… flies in the face of both government policy and commitment.”

The Mayor of London’s office, Crossrail and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills all joined talks on the future of the training centre.

Locog is leasing the LDA-owned land during the Olympic and Paralympic Games and claimed the NCC had known it would have to move since November 2010.


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