Builders ‘overlooked’ for major local jobs

LOCAL builders have been overlooked in the development of new Morpeth facilities, a councillor has complained.

Anderson Crowe, who sits on Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Council, has hit out at Morpeth town centre developer Dransfield Properties for using contractors from Tyneside to construct a new supermarket and veterinary centre.

The developer has strongly denied ignoring local businesses, saying the contract was only put out to companies based in the North East.

But Coun Crowe, who is himself a builder, says that there are many suitable businesses in and around the town who could have taken on the work, creating or preserving more jobs in Northumberland, instead of awarding the contract to Tolent Construction.

“There is a company from Newcastle doing this work in Morpeth so the money isn’t going to be kept in the town,” he said.

“There is a concern that the local area isn’t being considered. There are about five local companies round about who specialise in demolition and construction. Sanders, Hickeys, Thorntons and Clarks are right on the doorstep so why is Dransfield fetching companies in from Newcastle?

“We are trying to keep our area going. Surely, they should be going out to local contractors first and asking them to tender for the work as opposed to bypassing them and going straight to the ones in Newcastle. They can’t be saying it is cost-effective for a company coming from Newcastle when we have local companies within a five to six-mile radius of the town centre.

“It is just really unfair. I think it is a disgrace. In this day and age when work is tight it is about time that we look to local businesses before we go out of the area.”

However, Dransfield Properties has rejected claims that it overlooked local companies in awarding the contract for its Dark Lane and Whorral Bank projects to Tolent.

The company says the work was only tendered to regionally-based businesses, who had to meet a series of strict criteria to ensure they could complete the project.

In addition, sub-contracts are expected to be awarded throughout the work to smaller, local building firms.

Dransfield spokeswoman Amanda Holmes said: “The development at Low Stanners and the new veterinary practice at Whorral Bank was tendered only to regionally-based contractors in the North East.

“The chosen contractors had to be able to demonstrate a broad range of construction expertise, to be able to satisfy the very strict criteria necessary to build a modern veterinary practice, and be of a size and be experienced in the successful completion of major construction projects. Furthermore, they were also required to be pre-approved by the food store operator.

“Throughout this complicated process every care was taken to ensure that the contract was awarded within these guidelines and to a locally-based contractor. Within the main contract, smaller, local contractors will have the opportunity to tender for sub-contract packages for specific trades, which many have already done.”