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Shepherd takes golf trophy

CONTRACTS - MIDDLESBROUGH

SHEPHERD has won a £32 million deal to build a hotel and golf course for Premiership side Middlesbrough.

A source at remaining rival bidder, Laing O'Rourke, said: 'We haven't been successful with this project. I'm afraid it's gone to Shepherd. It's one of those things.'

Clugston and Gateshead contractor Tolent were also bidding for the deal but did not make the final interview stage.

The brains behind the development is club chairman Steve Gibson, who last week saw his struggling side get dumped out of the Carling Cup by League Two side Notts County.

The project at Hurworth-on-Tees, near Darlington, will convert the Grade II-listed Rockliffe Hall into a luxury five star country house hotel.

Rockliffe Hall, once known as Pilmore Hall, was built in 1863 and was used as a command headquarters in World War II before being turned into a hospital.

Having been abandoned for a number of years it will soon boast 64 bedrooms and three restaurants. Guests might also find star players such as Aussie striker Mark Viduka and England new boy Stuart Downing relaxing in the hotel's planned Turkish baths and spa.

Darlington Borough Council will give a decision on the club's plans for the 18-hole golf course, which will total 7,785 yards.

The club will buy up neighbouring farmland in order to build the course and convert existing farm buildings into maintenance areas.

Taylor Woodrow originally built the club's £7 million training facilities but half the 147 ha site is still undeveloped.

Mr Gibson has also teamed up with Darlington housing developer Bussey & Armstrong to build 24 exclusive private cottages on the site.

Shepherd will start work early next year and guests will be checking in from June 2009.

English Nature has complained to the council that the development could threaten bat roosts in Rockliffe Hall and has asked for a survey of the building to be carried out.

A club spokesman said no bats had been found at the site.