Sunderland highways scheme provides £17.1 million boost for local SMEs

April 6, 2021

As it prepares to hand over a crucial Wearside transport project in the coming months, Esh Construction reveals how a commitment between the business and Sunderland City Council has delivered key social and economic value targets for the city and the wider North East.
LinkedIn: Esh Group

Chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined an economic roadmap that will help SMEs navigate what is hoped to be the final chapter of the COVID-19 pandemic when he made his Budget announcement last month.

By launching a How To Grow training scheme and extending the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until September, Mr Sunak reiterated a commitment to helping SMEs across the UK survive as the fiscal support pot through COVID-19 surpassed the £400 billion mark.

Closer to home, Sunderland City Council and Esh Construction have been playing their part to help safeguard the economic future of our region’s SMEs.

New figures released show that £17.1 million – 43 per cent of the total scheme procurement – has been spent with local SMEs on a major highways scheme in the City of Sunderland.

Phase 3 of the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor (SSTC3) is a £40 million development, which will provide an uninterrupted dual carriageway (A1231) that links the Northern Spire Bridge and Sunderland city centre, and forms part of the council’s £70.8 million investment to relieve congestion issues, improve business links and connect communities to the city centre and Riverside Sunderland.

The Riverside Sunderland masterplan captures a number of ground-breaking projects to reimagine part of the city and sets out how the council will kick-start the rebirth of a 33.2-hectare site on both sides of the River Wear, creating the UK’s first carbon-neutral urban quarter, building 1000 new homes and creating office space for up to 10,000 workers, as well as a state-of- the-art library and community hub and healthcare facility.

As Esh Construction prepares to hand over the completed project in autumn 2021, the new transport corridor also opens up a more sufficient route that connects Nissan, the Low Carbon Enterprise Zone and International Advanced Manufacturing Park to the city centre.

A lack of framework options meant Sunderland City Council, on behalf of the North East Procurement Organisation (NEPO), developed the NEPO 211 Framework for Civil Engineering and Infrastructure Works, which was utilised for SSTC3.

Further to this, SSTC3 served to function as a pilot for the National Themes, Outcomes, Measures (TOMs) Framework, which aims to provide a minimum reporting standard for measuring social value.

Patrick Melia, Sunderland City Council’s chief executive, says: “We are committed to building community wealth and delivering projects that are supported by local businesses, so the city and its people get the maximum benefit of any council spend.

“As with many other projects we’re working on across Sunderland, SSTC3 is delivering tangible benefits to our communities through our work with Esh Construction, who share a commitment to added value through their work.

“This project is improving our city’s connectivity and transport links for residents and businesses, but we feel it is important they benefit from the project itself and not just the end result.”

The council included the TOMs framework in its procurement of SSTC3, evaluating the social values offered to obtain social benefits that support the local community and the council’s vision for a ‘healthier, vibrant and dynamic’ city.

A commitment was made at the procurement stage by Esh Construction and Sunderland City Council to deliver key social and economic value targets for Sunderland, as well as the surrounding local area – Tyne & Wear, Durham and Northumberland.

Now, with more than 80 per cent of the project finished, 53 per cent of workers are from Sunderland, 93 per cent of workers are from the surrounding local area, 32 jobs have been created for local workers and spend with local SMEs is projected to rise to £21.6 million as the project heads toward completion.

Steve Garrigan, Esh Construction’s SSTC3 project director, says: “This project has set a benchmark for future schemes.

“It has been a really big challenge and it has pushed the boundaries.

“We piloted a new framework, which targeted the elements of social worth to benefit the community.

“Working with Sunderland City Council, we have set a precedent for procurement moving forwards.”

One Sunderland business to have directly prospered from working on SSTC3 is Asbestos Audit.

Having a workforce of six back in 2018, it has since grown to a team of 18 people throughout the duration of SSTC3.

Director Ben Pickard acknowledges that working on such a flagship project has allowed Asbestos Audit to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and they are positioned for a bright future as the Government sets out its roadmap for 2021 and beyond.

He says: “SSTC3 has provided a local business such as ours with the opportunity to grow and prosper in difficult times.

“Having SSTC3 on our project portfolio will stand us in good stead when tendering for similar projects.

“Very few companies in the UK have had the opportunity to work on such a varied site with multiple issues, methodologies and build techniques all coming together to create a unique and special project.”

Northumbrian Roads has been a major player in the development of North East infrastructure for many years, but SSTC3 supersedes any contract the business has dealt with before.

As the biggest single contract in Northumbrian Roads’ history, Sean Lynch claims the scheme proves it can deliver large projects and is confident it will elevate the firm in the future.

He adds: “We had a team of 25 employees, the majority of whom live in Sunderland, working on SSTC3.

“It’s the biggest single contract we have ever had – our flagship project. The road itself will make it easier to travel in and out of the city via the A19.

“It is going to make the logistics of having a business in Sunderland much easier.”

One of the key targets for Sunderland City Council when it awarded the SSTC3 contract to Esh Construction was to ensure sustainable local employment.

Lint Engineering employed seven local workers to carry out all aspects of engineering services needed within the project, and has been able to provide a continuation of work at a time when businesses across the region have been forced to furlough staff due to the impact of COVID-19.

Director Kenneth Linton says: “My business has grown vastly from this project.

“I have put two sixteen-year-olds through college to carry out their engineering apprenticeship.

“I have acquired more engineering equipment and work vehicles, which has seen my business grow and will only put me in good stead for the future.”

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