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Fear for Oxford's Old Fire Station scheme as builder folds
Oxford City Council’s £3.5m conversion of the Old Fire Station into an education and arts centre for young homeless people could be stalled by the financial collapse of building contractors Rok.
The firm called in administrators yesterday after chalking up £3.8m half-year losses earlier this year.
Rok won the contract to re-develop the former arts centre and theatre in George Street under a scheme being funded mainly by the Government.
Yesterday the city council was trying to establish what administration would mean.
Leader Bob Price said: “It is particularly worrying because we aim to open the new centre in July 2011.
“That date is important because much of the Government funding we have received for the project must be spent by July, so any delay could cause problems.”
He added: “I am surprised to hear that administrators have been called in, given the high quality of Rok’s services.
“The builders have stripped the place out and were about to start on the conversion itself.
“Not a lot of the money has been spent yet.”
The Government’s Homes and Communities Agency provided £2.9m towards the pro-ject, along with £200,000 from homeless charity Crisis and £413,000 from the city council.
Roc, which employs about 3,500 people nationwide and 17 at its Eynsham office, has appointed Pricewaterhouse-Coopers (PWC) as administrators The news from Rok comes just 10 weeks after social housing competitor Connaught went into administration, leading to about 1,400 redundancies.
Mike Jervis, of PWC, said: “Our immediate priority is to review the financial position of the company and seek a buyer.
“Employees will naturally be concerned about their position, but they will continue to be paid.”
Rok has also worked with Oxford City Council on improving the city’s stock of social housing and with the refurbishment of the Barton, Ferry Pool, and Blackbird Leys leisure centres.
PLANS to revamp the Westgate Shopping Centre will be discussed by city councillors on the central, south and west area committee tonight.
The centre’s new owners, Crown Estate, submitted a renewal planning application for the site in March after the £330m scheme was put on ice in 2008 following the economic downturn. The renewal application, needed because the 2007 planning permission was only valid for three years, will be decided by the council on November 24.