Aura Site Excavation
Site excavation at Aura started earlier this year

Forrest replaced by Vermont on £100m Aura

Charlie Schouten

Developer Elliot Group has drafted in Vermont to complete its £100m Aura project on the former Erskine Industrial Estate in Liverpool, replacing troubled contractor Forrest on the job.

The scheme, which features 142 homes and more than 1,000 student beds, was being delivered by Forrest before the contractor ran into financial difficulties last month. The scheme is fully sold out.

Vermont has now taken over the site and has employed the former Forrest team to deliver the project, after their contracts were terminated.

“They’re an excellent bunch of lads and I’m delighted that Vermont has ensured their Christmases won’t be spoilt,” said Elliot Lawless of Elliot Group.

Other projects Vermont is delivering for Elliot Group include the first phase of its £250m Infinity development, featuring a tower of 39 storeys. The contractor beat Forrest to the deal, as revealed by Place North West in July last year, and the scheme includes two further towers of 33 and 27 storeys.

The developer has also replaced Forrest on another of its major schemes, the £70m, 34-storey The Residence in Salford. Careys has been drafted in on this site to deliver the concrete frame while the developer looks to appoint a permanent main contractor replacement.

Lawless added: “Our priority has always been to protect the interests of our investors and I’m pleased that we have put this issue behind us and can focus on delivering two great schemes for them.  We’ve got a little bit of ground to make up in terms of schedule, but we’ve got a team in place well capable of getting us back on track.”

Elliot Group had earlier promised a “Plan B” should Forrest’s situation worsen, following the announcement last week that the contractor had failed to secure a refinancing deal for its business.

Forrest is now in discussions with a number of parties, one of which is understood to be Engie, over the sale of its energy and social housing business, as first revealed by Place last Friday.

Discussions over the future of the company’s new-build business, which has borne the brunt of its problem contracts, are understood to be ongoing.

The group has already been replaced on Citu NQ, one of its problem jobs pictured below, by fellow contractor Domis, the business founded by its former chief executive Lee McCarren.

Along with Citu NQ where the contractor is believed to be losing around £2m; two other projects have caused issues for Forrest: these are understood to be X1 The Plaza and X1 The Gateway, both in Salford.

Forrest has found itself in difficulty after it unearthed a pre-tax loss of £26m last year, which it said was down to accounting “errors”.

The company had previously reported a pre-tax profit of £3.6m in 2015 but this was revised heavily downwards to a pre-tax loss of £19.2m. This was followed by a £6.8m loss for the year to 29 February 2016.

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How come all articles seem to be about the fate of new build projects? What about the M&E contracts and fate of the supply chain? Sub contractors have had to walk off refurbishment projects all round the country and tenants in social housing and care home residents left to live in a building site for over a month now!

By Chris Smith

@Chris Smith there was an article on Place on that very subject on Wednesday:

By Anonymous