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Stephens' Quest is to manage big Barnsley rebuild

60 second interview

Matthew Stephens is development manager for Quest Properties, which recently started work in Barnsley on Gateway Plaza, a key regeneration project.

He tells Alasdair Reisner why it is being built using construction management.

Tell us a little bit about Quest.

Quest is the property development arm of the Brook Group, which is based in Barnsley.

The business has been there for 60 or 70 years. The firm is one of the largest leisure operators in the UK but I am looking after the other side of the business.

Quest has done a number of other projects but the £70 million Gateway Plaza will be our biggest job yet. It's key to the regeneration of Barnsley, taking a derelict site and converting it into 188 residential units, 12,000 sq m of offices and 2,000 sq m of retail with a 100-bed hotel.

Quest bought the site in 2002 but work has only just begun. Why so long?

The site has had its problems with contamination and there has been the problem of the market for residential builders. We went out for quotes but they were much higher than anticipated. I think the contamination and the slope of the site put people off. We did develop a two-stage design and build with a contractor but it wasn't cost-effective.

You decided to go for construction management.

Isn't that a strange choice given the controversy over projects such as the Scottish Parliament and the Great Eastern Hotel in London?

At the moment the price of risk and cost of prelims associated with using a main contractor for such a site would be a problem. The banks may say they are more comfortable with a guaranteed maximum price but we think a GMP tends to turn out to be a guaranteed minimum price. As soon as you change anything about a design the contractor can ask for more money.

Under construction management you can move on with design changes without claims. There have been highprofile adjudications recently.

CM rules that out and gives a more flexible approach. We have Connell Mott MacDonald as a highly credible engineer on the project who gives support in the absence of a main contractor.

What are the other benefits of CM on the job?

We have so much flexibility. If part of the job is complete we can let it while work is being completed elsewhere on site.

Also trends change while a scheme is being built. With CM, if we want to change the tiles in the kitchen we can do that almost up to the moment the kitchens are installed. With design and build we might have to decide three years in advance and have to pay extra if we changed our minds.

Is there a downside?

You never get a guaranteed maximum price. But as far as I'm concerned you never get one under any circumstances.

Maybe you also don't get the benefit of the weight of a main contractor when it comes to buying. But you do get more transparency. We can choose the best subcontractors rather than just accepting the main contractor's choice.