Construction company redeveloping St Albans leisure complex goes into receivership

THE construction company which won the contract to redevelop Westminster Lodge has gone into receivership – only days after St Albans council’s cabinet approved the deal.

Irish building firm Michael McNamara & Co, which is understood to owe in the region of �1.5 billion euros, collapsed last Thursday, nine days after the council’s cabinet authorised the contract for the scheme to build a new sports and leisure centre at Westminster Lodge.

But it had not gone as far as signing the contract for the Westminster Lodge scheme which has been mired in an ongoing row about the size of the proposed pool.

The council was in the process of carrying out final checks on some details of the company’s financial status when it heard that a receiver had been appointed to take over the company.

News of the situation broke just days after preparation work began on the site of the new Westminster Lodge which will be situated on land fronting Holywell Hill close to the Abbey Theatre.

It entails clearing the site and demolishing a number of buildings.

Cllr Anthony Rowlands, portfolio holder for sport and leisure, said the council had been “prudent” in carrying out further financial checks on the company.

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He explained: “The council is now acting swiftly to ensure that the project to construct the new Westminster Lodge leisure centre does not slip. The council has already begun preparation work on the site and the construction of the leisure centre is due to commence in the New Year once another contractor has been formally appointed.”

The Westminster Lodge scheme includes provision for a 25m x eight-lane main pool, a 17m x 10m training pool and a four-court sports hall as well as a fitness gym, exercise studios and a caf�/bistro.

David Gilroy, of the PoolTooSmall campaign group, said the council could not sweep the situation under the carpet and accused the local authority of blundering at every level, technically, financially and professionally.

He called for the systemic failures around the decision to award the contract to McNamara to be eradicated and for council chief executive, Daniel Goodwin, to authorise a three-month full investigation involving his group and local people.

Conservative group leader, Cllr Julian Daly, said that it appeared there had been a return to the accident-prone council of last year’s missing laptops and unenforceable parking tickets.

A report is now to go to the next meeting of one of the council’s overview and scrutiny committees which will be asking who was responsible for assessing the financial strength of the tenders on behalf of the council and why they appeared to have failed to spot the weakness of the cash-strapped company.