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Carillion made to sweat over Meridian Quay tower

Contractor faces stiff competition from Welsh firm Opco to win back work on Swansea tower scheme

Construction giant Carillion has locked horns with regional building firm Opco in an attempt to win back its position as main contractor on Wales’ tallest residential tower.

While Carillion has been tipped as a frontrunner to finish the nearly-completed Meridian Quay tower in Swansea for developer Earthquake, its is believed Opco Construction also has a strong footing because of its experience on large residential schemes – including the city’s 14-storey Aurora Tower.

The scheme has been on hold since Carillion walked off site in a payment row in April.

A decision on which contractor will complete the troubled £70 million scheme is expected to be made in the coming days.

Chris Hope, a senior partner with the main selling agent Dawsons and spokesman for the project, admitted: “Certainly if it is Carillion we end up agreeing terms with, then they will be able to start work that much quicker.

“A new company would have to have new agreements set up and also obtain a workforce.”

However, he insisted there were “pros and cons” to picking either contractor.

Carillion was unavailable to comment on the discussions.

Cardiff-based Opco has a turnover of £40 million-plus and has worked on projects including Cardiff Airport, and the Century Wharf and Granary residential schemes in Cardiff Bay.

The Meridian Quay tower has come under fire from the local community after windows at the site were boarded up.

Earlier this week, the Swansea Civic Society compared the unfinished tower to high-rise flats in poorer parts of the city and complained the dormant scheme “drags down the image of Swansea”.

Mr Hope described the group’s comments as disappointing and said only areas on the ground floor of the building had been boarded up for security reasons.

He said: “The boards were put in place as a purely preventative measure to secure the building.”

It is hoped that once the final papers are signed, work will restart in a matter of weeks and the tower could be complete in about three months.

Carillion started the 29-storey tower, which comprises 123 apartments, back in 2006.

Carillion walked off the site of the almost-completed Meridian Quay scheme on 3 April after claiming it had missed a series of interim payments.

But Mr Hope alleged that, as of the day Carillion left site, Ferrara was “100 per cent up-to-date” with its payments.

The developer had been hoping to get a new contractor on site quickly after Carillion’s departure, but discussions were delayed when the Wolverhampton-based group asked for discussions on the project to be reopened.

Neither side will now comment as to whether any money issues remain over the scheme.

The scheme consists of seven individual blocks – six of which have already been handed over.

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