When news happens, text BAZ and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email and phone.
Tories demand action after building work stops at Hampshire Cricket headquarters
2:09pm Saturday 5th October 2013 in Sport
IT IS the controversial £30m dream to provide a luxury hotel at the home of Hampshire cricket using taxpayers’ money.
But moves to turn the Ageas Bowl into one of the top international cricket venues in the country have run into stormy waters after building work on a four-star 175-bed Hilton came to a dramatic halt.
The project, underpinned by public money from Eastleigh Borough Council, was stopped yesterday after Denizen, the firm building it, went in to administration.
Last night a top Eastleigh councillor called for the project to be brought back on track quickly fearing delays could mean yet more council- sourced money being ploughed in to the scheme.
But bosses at the ground say plans to host an international Test match fixture between England and India next summer would be unaffected by the set-back.
Civic chiefs say they are confident construction will be up and running “as soon as possible” – though no date has been set and it is unclear whether the hotel, which is 75 per cent built, will be completed by the time the Test comes around.
Just months ago, progress was being celebrated with the hammering of a golden bolt in to the giant framework of the hotel, which overlooks the West End-based ground.
The leader of the opposition Tory group at Eastleigh Borough Council, Godfrey Olson, told the Daily Echo he warned of potential problems when the authority was considering pumping millions into the scheme.
A deal was eventually struck where building work would take place with the council transferring a set fee after completion.
Cllr Olson said: “These were the issues I raised at the time. I raised the question ‘what if the builder goes in to liquidation’.
“It is an example of where a local authority has got itself involved in something outside its remit.
‘Fully protected’ “I hope it can be restored quickly, but I try and live in the real world and can understand that there could be delays and additional costs. It is all very unfortunate and I have seen these things in the past.”
Lib Dem leader Keith House said last night that the authority’s finances were “fully protected” and that construction would recommence “as soon as possible” once a new contractor is found.
Yesterday morning, workmen were arriving as usual at the Ageas Bowl only to find that the site was locked and building work had stopped.
It then emerged that Denizen had plunged in to administration with the firm pointing to “serious flaws” in the pricing of a number of the contracts by the previous management team.
The decision was made despite “stringent efforts” by a new board to keep the company going.
A security guard was in position at the locked gate which earlier saw numerous sub-contractors turn up for work to discover the news.
Above: Denizen area manager Howard Pearson, Hampshire cricket chairman Rod Bransgrove and Eastleigh council leader Keith House celebrate work starting in September last year.
They were allowed in via another entrance to pick up their tools before leaving the site.
It was the latest delay in a string of set-backs that have hampered plans to complete an ambitions £48m transformation of the Ageas Bowl in to a “model Test match ground”.
In June 2010, three companies eventually dropped their bid for a judicial review into plans to use taxpayers’ money to fund the hotel.
Meridian Leisure, Shire Hotels and MacDonald Hotels had called for an investigation but it was thrown out by a top judge before the trio of firms withdrew their appeal to that decision.
Controversy then raged over whether to give the plan the go ahead amid claims from critics that spending council cash on the venture was “reckless and far too risky”.
Before the plan was rubber-stamped the Daily Echo then revealed how the council was considering buying the lease of the 167-acre site for £6.5.
This controversial deal was later agreed, with the council then leasing the ground back to the club.
Last night the authority said it was still committed to the hotel project – despite news of Denizen’s liquidation.
A spokesman said: “We are fully aware of the situation with the main contractor and working with key partners to secure another contractor to complete the hotel as soon as possible.
“The hotel is 75 per cent complete and the council’s finances are fully protected.”
Denizen has said that the firm has been placed into administration by its chairman and largest shareholder, Paul Bolton, after turn-around efforts failed to secure its viability.
A statement released by the firm said the move followed “stringent efforts” by Mr Bolton and a new board to fix the business after “serious flaws” were unearthed in the pricing of a number of the contracts by the previous management team.
While alternative contractors have been found for two of the three hotel projects they were working on in Southport and Sheffield, it has not been possible in the Ageas Bowl case, the statement said.
Duff and Phelps has been appointed as administrators to identify if buyers can be found for the contract and the company’s assets.
Comments are closed on this article.