The troubled Fairfield Halls refurbishment project – already months late and millions of pounds over budget – is struggling on without the major civil engineering company which helped draw up the plans.
Mott MacDonald is the global engineering, management and development consultancy, who have offices in Croydon and are among the borough’s biggest employers. They are widely regarded by those who have worked with them on civil engineering projects as competent, reliable and “a safe pair of hands”. The project is being overseen by the council’s own house-builders, Brick by Brick, a company only formed in 2015 and which has yet to complete a single new home.
This week, Mott MacDonald confirmed to Inside Croydon that, despite having had a pivotal role in the £30million scheme to refit and rebuild the town centre’s much-valued arts and entertainment centre, they are no longer working on the Fairfield Halls.
One leading Croydon figure described the news as “a symptom of a project in dire trouble”.
Katharine Street sources have suggested that Mott MacDonald may have parted ways with the council-funded scheme in a dispute over the steadily rising bills for the work.
A spokesman for Mott MacDonald told Inside Croydon, “We can confirm our involvement on the Fairfield Halls project concluded in September 2017.” The spokesman declined to elaborate on the reasons for the split.
The departure of Mott MacDonald from the on-site team may, in part at least, offer some explanation for the hiatus at the end of last year between the demolition of the part of the building which housed the Arnhem Gallery and the commencement of works to build on that part of the site.
The Fairfield Halls closed in June 2016 for what was supposed to be a two-year refurbishment. Many of the plans for the modernisation and for the management of the scheme were drawn up by Rick Mather Architects working with Mott Macdonald.
But as Inside Croydon has first reported, the refurbishment project now won’t be completed until September 2019 at the earliest.
Estimates suggest that the bill for the works could have risen to as much as £40million.
The council’s plan was to pay for the arts centre refurbishment by building hundreds of flats on the neighbouring site, previously referred to as College Green but recently renamed by the council as Fair Field.
The council’s plans have been forced to undergo a rushed reassessment, after Brick by Brick – following a mere three years of negotiations – failed to secure the purchase of property from Croydon College, who have now flogged off some of their buildings to a private developer. It has put at risk a property development potentially worth more than £400million.
“Losing a major engineer is usually a symptom of a project in dire trouble,” Chris Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, said of the news that Mott Macdonald were no longer working on the Fairfield Halls.
“What is clear is that the original business plan of funding the Fairfield Hall refurbishment from the profits on the development is in tatters for the foreseeable future, and one way or another, the tax-payer will end up picking up the tab for the council’s ineptness.”
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