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Staffordshire’s £750m BSF deal attracts high level of interest

A host of contractors are tracking the £750 million Staffordshire Building Schools for the Future contract - although it remains to be seen how many will enter the procurement process.

Major names including Laing O’Rourke, Interserve, Catalyst Lend Lease and Galliford Try are all understood to be taking a look at the West Midlands project.

European construction giants Bouygues and Hochtief PPP are also thought to be maintaining an interest in the work, which is scheduled to begin in 2011 and take a decade to complete.

John Laing, Miller and Morgan Sindall also attended a recent bidders day for the project, which is expected to be formally put to market in July.

North Midland, Shepherd, Thomas Vale, Wates and Willmott Dixon have kept tabs on the deal as well. It is thought some firms may look to form consortia or supply chain agreements.

The swell of interest in the project comes despite speculation that the new government will slash BSF spending.

Many firms have been holding back from committing to BSF opportunities because of the political uncertainty surrounding the £55 billion programme.

New education minister Nick Gibb was quoted during the election campaign as saying BSF deals yet to reach financial close “won’t be guaranteed”.

The high cost of bidding and the relative simplicity of the £4bn academies programme has also put contractors off.

The Staffordshire scheme will take place over four phases, beginning with £116m of work in Wave 6a of the scheme in Tamworth and Rugely.

The PFI sample school is Rugeley Learning Campus, which will bring together the current two high schools in Rugeley and a post-16 centre into one learning campus with vocational, community and other facilities.

The design and build sample school is Belgrave High School, which will be roughly half new build, a third refurbishment and a fifth light touch work.

Other schools in Wave 6a include Queen Elizabeth’s Mercian School, Rawlett Community Sports College, Wilnecote High School, Kettlebrook Short Stay Unit and Two Rivers Secondary Special School.