We were appointed by Surrey County Council in January 2014 to provide Project Management Services in relation to the potential development of a large site in Crawley into commercial offices. SCC were looking to purchase and develop a large site in order to self-generate income following the reductions in funding by the government.
Our involvement encompassed the Project Management of the following key phases:
- Land purchase including due diligence to check for ground contamination.
- Design development of three large commercial buildings and three smaller retail units. This included working with SCC's Project Manager to project manage the design team and all the key internal and external stakeholders.
- Project Management of the master planning and planning application stages, which included working closely with SCC's planning consultant and design team.
- The procurement phase, which included a two-stage tender process, resulting in the appointment of Willmott Dixon. SCC's preferred Form of Contract was the NEC 3, Option A due to its collaborative approach. Following the successful conclusion of the above phases, planning permission was granted early in 2015.
There were a number of key challenges to overcome throughout the duration of the project, including those at the design, planning, pre-construction and construction stages.
- Ground contamination: Prior to SCC purchasing the land, which in itself was politically challenging as it was in an adjoining county, they were keen to understand the extent of the risk associated with ground contamination, as this would have a significant impact on whether SCC progressed with the purchase of the site. We project managed this early phase of the project to understand the full extent of the contamination. Allowing SCC to conclude the purchase at the correct price.
- Planning Approval: Due to the proximity to Gatwick Airport, there were numerous restraints and requirements that had to be managed throughout the planning phase of the project. We worked closely with SCC, their planners, Vail Williams, and the design team to resolve all the issues. This included the height of the building and matters such as the birds that would be attracted to the site. After a challenging design and planning phase, planning approval was finally obtained at the start of 2015.
- Closing out of planning conditions: To the extent of the development there were numerous planning conditions that were imposed by Crawley Council. These included conditions linked to pre-construction, pre-occupation, etc. The project therefore had to be carefully planned to ensure sufficient time was allowed to sign off the relevant planning conditions prior to work commencing or occupation taking place.
- Construction phase: Due to the fact that SCC were constructing a building with the specific requirements of a tenant in mind, there was an additional stakeholder to consider at all stages of the project. South East Coastal Ambulance Service (SECAmb) had reached an agreement with SCC to lease the ground and first floors of the building. The main use of these areas was to accommodate SECAmb’s Emergency Operating Call Centre. The design of the lower two floors therefore differed significantly from that of the upper two floors. The fit-out work to the ground two floors would also be undertaken directly by SECAmb’s own contractor. The co-ordination of the works and the different stakeholders was therefore a key challenge and one that was fundamental for the success of the project. We worked closely with SCC’s in-house project manager to ensure all the key stakeholders were involved in all the necessary stages of the project.
We worked closely with all SCC stakeholders including their internal Project Manager, planning advisers, Design and Build Contractor and their design team members, as well as Crawley Borough Council and other Statutory Authorities. Our role was to coordinate, and project manage the weekly progress meetings and fortnightly Project Board meetings during all key phases of the project. This was applicable to the design / planning, pre-construction and construction phases of the project.
We produced regular Highlight Reports which were circulated to the Project Board on a fortnightly basis during the design and pre-construction phases. We also attended all Project Board meetings.
We also took ownership for the preparation and management of the project action log and risk register. This document was used to record and monitor all live actions. Only when an action had been successful concluded would it be removed from the log. By recording all live actions in a single document, we were able to administer the project efficiently and effectively.
By forming close working relationships, agreeing communication protocols and managing the action log each of the key challenges were successfully overcome.
Due to the fact that SCC signed an Agreement for Lease, with the SECAmb to allow them to be the long-term tenant of the ground and first floors, the first building had to be handed over in stages, thereby allowing SECAmb to commence their fit-out programme before Practical Completion has been achieved. Sectional Completion was granted on 19th August 2016 and Practical Completion is due to occur on 7th October 2016.
Our role also extended beyond the completion date for phase 1 as SCC were keen to commence the detailed planning stage of the next phase in relation to parcels 2 and 3. We provided Project Management services to SCC prior to the construction phase commencing.
We formed a close working relationship with all stakeholders throughout the duration of the project. Our role continued for more than 3 years and as such we provided continued support during the various stages of the project from inception, where there were no other consultants engaged, all the way through to completion. Various new stakeholders were introduced to the project throughout, including a change in client PM. Due to our continued involvement we were able to provide a key link for the duration of the project and as such we were able to inform all stakeholders of the decision-making process prior to their involvement. This proved to be invaluable with regard to driving efficiencies throughout the project.
Even after our involvement had concluded we were able to assist SCC in providing historic documents from our system that they were able to locate. Our electronic filing system therefore proved invaluable in helping SCC to provide a fully transparent audit process.
We also took ownership for the preparation of a project action log, which was used to manage the project and monitor and control all the key actions and risks.