Fringe Box



Town Centre Plaza Contractor Goes Bust – Major Building Site at a Standstill

Published on: 10 Jun, 2023
Updated on: 10 Jun, 2023

The Plaza construction site on the Portsmouth Road where all work stopped on Thursday (June 8).

By Martin Giles

Construction work has stopped at the major Guildford Plaza site at the bottom of the Portsmouth Road, near St Nicolas Church.

The scheme was to provide over 300 single occupancy rooms in four buildings of between three and six storeys high on the prime town centre site.

Henry Construction Projects, the contractor responsible, has gone into administration leaving hundreds of suppliers and subcontractors out of pocket.

According to the Construction Enquirer, insolvency experts from FRP Advisory took control of the London-based residential tower builder Thursday evening.

The collapse ends weeks of speculation about the contractor which has been strangling its supply chain of payments for several months.

In the last few days, the firm’s major sites ground to a halt with clients and subcontractors left in the dark about Henry’s problems.

A neighbouring resident of the site said that he had noticed there had been no activity over the last two days, “Actually it has been relatively quiet since last Friday (June 2)”

Other nearby residents believe this will inevitably mean that there will now be an extended delay to development. Darrol Radley said: “The site is arguably in a far worse state now than it was for the previous 22 years when it was derelict following the demolition of the former headquarters of CEGB [Central Electricity Generating Board) in 1999.

“We are close neighbours and we have had occasion to complain through the spring months about the state of the roads and debris.

A computer-generated image (CGI) of how the site would look if viewed looking north from the corner of Bury Street. St Nicolas Church can be seen at the end of the street on the right. On the immediate right are the Caleb Lovejoy buildings.

“I believe the amount of dust and poor control of the mud etc has caused some neighbouring premises to have increased cleaning regimes at additional cost.’

“One, I understand, had received a positive communication from the company following complaints but it actually then came to nothing.

“It now appears that the lack of response was maybe a sign that things were not going well. I believe that the development here was running about three months late.”

“We had noticed that there had been no activity on the site all week, an extraordinary situation for a major construction site in the best weather for weeks.”

“I know many people in Guildford will be interested and appalled at a further delay and the state that the site is in.”

An elevation of the proposed development as it would have been seen from the west (Portsmouth Road). Immediately to its left can be seen the Cannon Pub and to its right Wycliffe Buildings.

Cllr Joss Bigmore, (R4GV Merrow) and former council leader said: “This is an unfortunate manifestation of the risks inherent in development considering the current state of the economy. Rising interest rates, rampant inflation in construction costs, and falling property values is a perfect storm for the development industry.

“Whilst many will have little sympathy for the developers we now face a prolonged period of uncertainty for this site which would have provided much-needed town centre accommodation.

Cllr Joss Bigmore

“Attention will now turn to St Mary’s Wharf, where there seems to be little activity since planning permission was obtained. Similarly, will the North Street developers walk away given a more hostile council and increasing economic risk?

There are some that will celebrate the demise of these schemes but if they don’t move forward will Guildford face yet another decade of degeneration?

Questions will also be asked of the GBC schemes at Weyside and Guildford Park Road, if private sector developers are going under, does GBC really have the skill and experience to manage projects of far greater size and complexity, the fate of Woking looms large if our new borough council leadership gets this wrong.

Cllr Geoff Davis, (Con, Castle Ward) and opposition shadow on Regeneration said he is much saddened by the Administration of the main contractor on the Plaza site build, Henry Construction Projects.

Cllr Geoff Davis

“This situation is such a shame for The Plaza site, which has been vacant for many years.  It is now certain to lock up again, until a replacement main contractor can be secured – no doubt at a substantially increased price.

“I believe the site owners are Tiger Developments, who must be upset by their contractor’s failure. Henry are a well-known London-based residential tower builders, and they have a number of projects as well as The Plaza under way – presumably all now in the same position.

“It is believed that soaring costs of material and labour have played a major part in the sudden collapse.

“There is talk of trade creditors being owed even as much as £100 million. The shock waves will be felt throughout the construction industry.

“Henry Construction started out as a reinforced concrete frame contractor, before growing fast and taking on bigger projects in London and with sites from Southampton to Manchester.”

“Guildford Conservatives regard this as a very sad situation, with another major site set back in time, especially when the piling activity gave great hope of an impressive and successful redevelopment.

“We look forward with positivity, and will assist the new council administration in any way needed to find a resolution of this disappointing situation.”

Chair of the Guildford Society, Alistair Smith, said: “The collapse of Henry Construction will affect several building projects. Its collapse highlights the economic pressures in the development industry from rising material and labour costs.

“If the company is acquired by another construction firm maybe work will resume quickly, the developers will be concerned that increased costs may impact the schemes viability

See also: Construction Enquirer article: Henry Construction Crashes into Administration.


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Responses to Town Centre Plaza Contractor Goes Bust – Major Building Site at a Standstill

  1. Ross Connell Reply

    June 13, 2023 at 10:24 am

    And yet the more appropriate housing proposed by the cathedral did not receive planning permission. What people want are small detached and semi-detached housing not single occupancy apartments as here or even in North Street development.

  2. Ramsey Nagaty Reply

    June 14, 2023 at 10:39 am

    Mr Connell makes an interesting comment however it was not the developer going bust due to the wrong types of properties causing poor sales revenue. This was the contractor who has gone bust.

    Costs of materials have risen considerably with long delivery times for many items and increased interest rates together with tighter lending from banks. These factors will impact many of the expected developments in the borough.

    Another reason for a thorough review of the Local Plan.

    Ramsey Nagaty is a former borough councillor and a foremer leader od the Guildford Greenbelt Group

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