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Ageas Bowl hotel contractor Denizen goes into liquidation
9:47am Friday 4th October 2013 in Sport
BUILDING work on a £30m tax-payer funded hotel at the home of Hampshire Cricket has today come to a halt - after contractors went into liquidation.
Workmen turned up at the Ageas Bowl to find the site locked and construction on the planned luxury four-star Hilton has stopped.
Denizen, the firm overseeing building work, has gone into liquidation just over a year after starting the project.
Just months ago club officials hammered in a special 'golden bolt' signifying the end of the first phase of the ambitious project to build a six-storey, 175-bed hotel overlooking the ground.
This morning, a spokesman from the club said: “RB Sport & Leisure Holdings plc (RBSLH), the parent company of Hampshire Cricket Ltd, acknowledges the news that Denizen Contracts Ltd. (Denizen) the main contractor on the new Hilton hotel at the Ageas Bowl, has today gone into liquidation.
“Whilst there will inevitably be a short delay to the opening of the Hotel, funding to complete the project remains in place and the process to replace Denizen as the main contractor is already underway.
“This development will not affect the ground's ability to host major events in 2014.
This morning a security guard was in position at the locked gate which earlier saw numerous sub-contractors turn up for work to discover the news.
They were allowed in via another entrance to pick up their tools before leaving the site.
Work started on the development in the spring and was due to be finished by early next year.
But despite the club being confident it will still be completed in time for 2014 games, there will inevitably be a delay in the project.
It is the latest set back in a string of delays to have hit moves to turn the site into a “model Test match ground”.
Controversy raged over whether to give the plan the go ahead in the first place, as it involved using millions of pounds of tax payers' money.
The site this morning Eventually a plan was rubber-stamped at Eastleigh Borough Council to pay for the £30m hotel at the ground, funds for which would be transferred on completion of the complex.
A separate deal was earlier agreed to buy the lease of the 167-acre Ageas Bowl site for £6.5m.
In the past critics have labelled spending council cash on the venture as “reckless and far too risky”.
An Eastleigh Borough Council spokesperson said this morning: “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.”
Cllr Keith House, Leader of the Council added: “It is now about finishing the job and we are confident that in working with partners this project will be up and running as soon as possible.”
Denizen has said that the firm has been placed in to administration by its chairman and largest shareholder, Paul Bolton, after turn-around efforts failed to secure its viability.
A statemtent released by the firm this morning 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.
The Standish-based contractor, which specialised in the construction of hotels, spas and leisure facilities, had completed projects in cities across the country, including in Newcastle, Sheffield, Liverpool and Birmingham.
Mr Bolton said problems became apparent in some of the contracts last year, seeing him step in to an executive role from that of chairman and installing a new chief executive to help fix the issues that had been identified. The statement added: "The current outcome – administration – was never envisaged and it was the new board’s expectation that they would be able to complete the three contracts on its books.
"Indeed, the work undertaken by Mr Bolton and his new team has enabled two of the three projects – hotel developments in Southport and Sheffield – to be novated to another contractor, ensuring the jobs are completed and sub-contractors are protected. "This was not possible at this time in the case of the Southampton scheme and so Duff and Phelps has now been appointed as administrators to identify if buyers can be found for this contract and the company’s assets."