SHEPHERD is tipped to take a £35 million education deal in the north-east.
Sources at rivals Balfour Beatty, Gleeson and Sir Robert McAlpine believe the firm is first in line for the relocation of Darlington College of Technology.
One insider said: 'Shepherd is the only firm to make it through to the second stage, so it looks as though it's in the bag.'
The new campus will be situated on Haughton Road near the town centre and is part of the 30 ha Tees Valley regeneration project.
The 19,000 sq m campus will be made up of a group of learning complexes run in partnership with local organisations and businesses.
Plans for the complex focus on a technology centre for engineering, construction and computing. Other core elements will be a media centre, sixth-form college and a higher education centre offering courses in partnership with Teesside University.
The scheme will also include a young people's centre for 14 to 19-year-olds, a sports and leisure complex, restaurant, beauty salons and a health and childcare centre.
One NorthEast, English Partnerships and Darlington Borough Council have joined forces to run the project.
The deal is likely to take up to three months to finalise and the college hopes work will start on site by Christmas.
One source close to the scheme said: 'The ideal would be to start this year but this may be put back during discussions with the winning contractor.'
Balfour Beatty, Gleeson and Shepherd are also battling for a second £13 million deal in the north-east.Amec joins the three on Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council's tender list for the revamp of Gateshead International Stadium.
The deal covers improvements to track and field facilities, as well as alterations within the stadium buildings.A student accommodation block is also likely to be included in the contract.