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Coreena Ford & Tom Keighley

Tolent suppliers forced to cut jobs as firms sought to take over sites

Some sub-contractors which were working for collapsed North East construction firm Tolent have themselves been forced to lay off staff, it has emerged.

Interpath Advisory was appointed as administrators of Gateshead-based Tolent plc and five of its operating subsidiaries on Monday, making 313 workers redundant with immediate effect, after the firm fell into difficulties. Heavy losses incurred on Tolent’s biggest project to date, the £85.5m Milburngate development in Durham, were blamed for having a profound impact on the companies’ working capital, ultimately leading to Interpath’s appointment.

The company had shut down sites last Friday and sent staff home, having tried to secure its future. Around 90 workers have been retained at the firm while administrators seek ways to save the business, which had bases in Shotton Colliery, Leeds and Redcar alongside its two Team Valley head offices.

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Tolent has been responsible for a number of landmark developments over the years, including Hadrian’s Tower in Newcastle and the NHS Nightingale Hospital in Sunderland, as well as a number of housing projects in the North East and Yorkshire.

It has not been revealed how many live projects Tolent was involved in, although the firm has publicised its work on residential at Riverside Sunderland, after winning a £40m contract to build 135 homes at the Vaux neighbourhood, the first of 1,000 homes planned for the area.

It has also been working on the creation of a new Aldi supermarket at Kingston Park in Newcastle, a new £3m RNLI lifeboat station in Cleethorpes, which had been earmarked to open this summer, and was embarking on the next, £7.1m phase of building work at The Pattern Shop in Newcastle – new modern office space at the Stephenson Quarter – following a £1.1m contract to restore the historical site.

Interpath confirmed it is working with a number of parties to continue projects, while also seeking buyers for two of its businesses.

Mr Lumb, managing director at Interpath Advisory, said: “Following our appointment yesterday afternoon, we are in active dialogue with parties that may be interested in continuing construction projects for both Tolent Construction and Tolent Living, and are also actively seeking buyers for the facilities management business at Wilton, and Tolent’s asbestos removal business at Shotton Colliery. We are also exploring solutions for the companies’ assets, including properties and the housing scheme at Sedgefield.”

Meanwhile, some small firms across the region are set to incur major financial impacts following the demise of construction group Tolent. Gareth Hutchinson, director of County Durham-based bricklaying contractor High Rise Brickwork Ltd, said his firm had been working on multiple contracts for Tolent and had been forced to let 35 people go.

He said: “We’ve done projects for Tolent over the last three years which they owe us retention for, and which we’ll never see, and that’s never mind mortar bills and we were supplying them with forklift drivers, as well as the labour side of the brickwork that we’ve done.

“The majority of our guys were on their site so we had to let a lot of them go on Friday. Luckily we’ve got a contractor in Hardwick Homes who’ve got our backs covered. They’ve been very generous in making sure we’re right.”

Other suppliers took to social media following the news. Weston Malone, managing director of Gosforth-based mechanical engineering firm H Malone & Sons Ltd, said: “Terrible news in the North East construction industry recently with the loss of Tolent and Metnor. Our thoughts are with all the staff at these companies who are facing uncertain times ahead and their supply chains who will obviously be affected.

“Tolent have been a particularly good client of ours, we have delivered a number of high-profile schemes together over many years and have got to know their people very well. Really sad to see it end this way for them. Although we have been affected we take it on the chin and move on, we have a strong order book with some fantastic clients who have been in touch to check on us and offer their support.”

And Helen Geggie, an employee of design engineering firm Baileygomm Ltd, which operates Hertfordshire and North East offices, wrote: "Absolutely devastating news today about Tolent Construction. Baileygomm are deeply saddened for our own site team and all the associated support staff."


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