Major engineering firm has left troubled Fairfield Halls project

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan in 2017 being shown hoardings around the Fairfield Halls by council leaders Alison Butler and Tony Newman, before Mott MacDonald left and Croydon College sold off its annex

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.

When Rick Mather Architects drew up the masterplan nearly four years ago, they worked closely with Mott MacDonald as engineers to modernise the Fairfield Halls

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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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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6 Responses to Major engineering firm has left troubled Fairfield Halls project

  1. sebastiantillinger7694 says:

    Mott McDonald were the designers behind the idiotic new bridge at a East Croydon station. The one that faces the wrong way, you have to leave the protection of the platform canopies to use it and it is open to the rain – it’s canopy faces the wrong direction. How can a piece of major public infrastructure be so incompetent ?

    Residents of Croydon should seek assurances that they will not be involved on the new East Croydon Station works.

    • They weren’t. Mott MacDonald are civil engineers, not architects. While they worked on the Bridge To Nowhere project, they did not “design” it as such.

      • sebastiantillinger7694 says:

        Mott McDonald was the lead consultant. Engineers are normally lead consultants on infrastructure projects, not architects. Mott McDonald led the team that included the architect Hawkins Brown. As lead consultant, they were responsible for the the delivery of the clients brief and the design that was delivered.

        Incidentally, the architect who was employed by a Mott McDonald who is just as culpable for this fundamental cock-up sits on the Croydon Council Place Review Panel. Talking about building on rubbish……

        • And they used a design very similar to the walkways at Clapham Junction, an off-the-shelf cost-cutting solution to a bespoke site.
          The mutual back-slapping ensuring repeat work from cutting edge Network Rail, the commissioning body responsible for failing to secure land access for the Addiscombe end of the Bridge to Nowhere.

          • sebastiantillinger7694 says:

            You are absolutely right. The intimate responsicibility rests with the commissioning client, Network Rail

  2. Lewis White says:

    One has to ask the question….. who are the cost consultants advising the council on the REAL cost of restoring the Fairfield Halls ?

    Asbestos removal costs money, a lot of money. Were there costed “Worse case scenarios” as to asbestos removal?

    Is the cost over-run purely to do with asbestos, or are there other factors in play?

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