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Planning delays on £350m job force contractor switch

Laing O’Rourke has unseated Skanska to win a £350 million leisure development in Rotherham.

Developer Oak Holdings said it had signed an agreement with Laing O’Rourke to get the massive Yes! scheme, to be built on a 132 ha remediated former open cast mine site in the Rother Valley, off the -drawing board.

Under the deal Laing will work with Oak’s team to develop designs for the South Yorkshire development’s leisure, entertainment, sports and conference facilities to get it through detailed planning.

It is hoped that full permission will be granted by the end of the year, with construction expected to take until 2011.

The scheme has previously struggled with local authority bureaucracy, taking four years to secure outline permission.

It was this long-winded process that put paid to a construction deal, struck in 2006, between the developer and Skanska.

Oak chief executive Steve Lewis said: “We had a preconstruction agreement with Skanska but unfortunately there were circumstances for both sides that meant we were unable to proceed.

“We encountered some horrendous delays with the public sector and planning.

“The economic cycle and programme moved on and we opened discussions with Laing O’Rourke, which became the natural choice.”

But Mr Lewis said he still had a good relationship with Skanska and was in d-iscussions with it over future opportunities.

Having secured heads of terms for the land with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Oak is now working towards signing a development agreement before it submits its detailed plans.

Laing O’Rourke will also be responsible for ensuring there is sufficient construction industry capacity in the area to meet the resource requirements of the project.

It is understood that the -contractor has already opened discussions with local colleges and training providers to help provide skilled operatives to staff up the job.