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Work windfall for South-East

SOUTH-EAST England is set for a mini construction boom over the next few years as a series of massive schemes start on site.

More than 20,000 jobs will be created on the huge projects in the region.

This week, the government is expected to confirm that the London & Continental Railways consortium has won the race to build the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and that the huge Millennium site will be located at Greenwich.

The Rail Link decision will pave the way for a start on the project in a little over 12 months time. Up to 15,000 civil engineering jobs will be created.

The 700 million Millennium exhibition is expected to create 2,500-3,500 construction jobs.

A spokesman for the Millennium Trust said: Construction will have to start early next year if it is to be completed in time for the year 2000.

Meanwhile, Warwick has won the enabling works contract for the huge Bleater Park shopping and leisure centre in Kent.

Beehives is construction manager on the 350 million job, which is expected to create up to 3,000 construction jobs.

And airport operator BAA is understood to be set to buy a big stake in the 200 million redevelopment of Battersea Power Station in central London.

A deal with present owners the Wang family will pave the way for a feasibility study to look at turning the disuse power station into a huge shopping and leisure centre.

Alan Black, national construction organiser for general union GMB, said: Five or six big projects offer a glimmer of hope to workers in the South- East in the next few years, but on a national level we want to see the housing market stimulated.

And Irum Malik, economist with the National Council of Building Materials Producers, agreed that prospects for this year in the South-East are better than in other regions, but added: What we really need as an industry is an increase in the smaller contracts to provide solid underlying growth.