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Early Engagement Helps Avoid Major Pitfalls

Tom Woodhead, business services director at Woodhead Group states the importance of local authorities taking a collaborative approach to procurement, especially where buildings for the visitor economy are concerned.

There is no question that the visitor economy is big business for the UK. Figures from Deloitte suggest that tourism makes up nearly 10% of the UK’s gross domestic product, while VisitBritain forecasts that the industry as a whole will be worth more than £250 billion by 2025.

Powering this growth are tourist destinations that aren’t just locations, but attractions, and construction plays a huge role in this.

One of the most common challenges when it comes to buildings for the visitor economy is that such projects are rarely led and funded by one source. Whether it is funded by a local authority, Historic England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund or a combination of any or all of the above, the project needs to deliver value for money for those stakeholders while still meeting the brief of creating an attraction that will do justice to the history and heritage of a place.

As is the case with most projects for local authorities, these types of builds are typically run on a very tight budget while still having to go through the usual public sector procurement processes.

Traditionally, the competitive tender route has been seen by local authorities as the best way to ensure that project costs are kept low. However, this doesn’t give the opportunity for collaboration and prevents contractors and their subcontractors bringing valuable expertise to the team.

When authorities appoint through competitive tender, the design and development phases of the project are usually locked in by the time the contractor is introduced into the mix. This can create problems as there will often be times when the practicalities of the construction process don’t mesh with what has been put to paper in the design phase.

The big issue this creates is adding further time to the overall project while these issues are ironed out, which results in increased costs for the local authority.

The way local authorities can avoid this is by taking a more pragmatic approach to procurement to enable collaboration that involves the right people in the process, at the right time. Be they from the design team, the contractors or the supply chain getting them involved as early as possible is key. Frameworks provide an ideal way of achieving this, allowing local authorities to streamline the procurement process and mitigate the risks of competitive tendering.

An example of this in action is the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre, which was procured through Scape Venture. Through this, Woodhead Group was able to get involved in the project from a very early stage, which enabled us to work with the design team to identify where savings could be made without compromising the overall aesthetics.

This collaboration led to a team decision to use a glulam structure rather than a steel structure to fit more naturally into Sherwood Forest. Early involvement meant that we were able to engage with potential suppliers from the outset to ensure the finished product delivered the best value for the client. Click here to find out more about the project.

Whether it is a heritage building or something completely new, the same theory applies, the earlier a contractor is appointed, the earlier they can get their supply chain involved and the more efficient the whole process becomes.