Brighton and Hove News » £1.4m social flats scheme back on track after struggling to find builder

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A contract for the construction of four new social apartments in the center of Brighton is about to be awarded.

The decision follows a delay of more than a year as Brighton and Hove City Council struggled to find a contractor to build the flats in Frederick Street, Brighton.

The town hall announced the work but there was “a lack of interest” and only one company submitted an offer, with an estimate deemed too expensive.

Officials were also concerned that the tender did not contain enough detail to demonstrate that the contractor was capable of carrying out such complex work.

The site is an ‘infill’ plot on a modestly sized former car park a few yards along Frederick Street and opposite the Three Jolly Butchers pub.

After a frustrating result of the first ‘open tender’ process, council officials tried another way to find a construction contractor.

They now want elected officials to back the change in approach that involved a “mini-competition” between trusted vendors using an online shopping platform.

If the advisers agree, senior officers will work to quickly finalize the contract award with an anonymous firm – again, the sole bidder for the work.

Housing chiefs hope their favorite contractor will be on hand by the end of the summer to start work on the £1.4million project.

The council had planned to welcome the first tenants into their new homes next month before the schedule slipped.

The project won planning permission in April 2020 – and a report to the council’s housing committee said: ‘The open tender process failed, partly due to lack of interest in a small site complex filler at a time when contractors are in demand and can be selective.

“The site was also put out to tender during a period of economic uncertainty, which caused some contractors to feel unable to deliver the project.

“(Council procurement officers) have reported that other open tenders are struggling to gain traction in the contractor market.”

The report to the Housing Committee added: “The project is on budget and construction work can begin this year.”

Two of the four apartments will be studios while the other two will have two bedrooms each.

In 2019, councilors said they wanted two-bed flats to be let at ‘local housing allowance’ rates – just over £200 a week.

And they wanted the one-bed flats to be let for ‘subsistence rent’, which would mean rent levels of just over £100 a week.

The housing committee is urged to support the revised approach to recruiting a building contractor so that officials can award a contract to the anonymous company.

The committee is due to meet at Hove Town Hall at 4pm next Wednesday (June 22). The meeting should be broadcast on the board’s website.


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