Highways Scheme Provides £17.1m Boost for North-East SMEs

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak’s latest Budget announcement showed an intention from the Government to direct SMEs away from the financial adversity of the COVID-19 pandemic, with financial support that has now surpassed £400bn.

In the North East, Esh Construction and Sunderland City Council continue to help protect the economic prosperity of the region’s SMEs. In fact, £17.1m has now been spent with local SMEs on a major Highways scheme in Sunderland, which represents 43% of the total scheme procurement cost.

Phase 3 of the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor (SSTC3) is a £40m development which will create a dual carriageway (A1231) between the Northern Spire bridge and the city centre and on to Riverside Sunderland, the 32-hectare site in the heart of the city being transformed into a dynamic, carbon-neutral urban quarter. This is just part of Sunderland City Council’s £70.8m investment to relieve congestion, improve business links, and connect communities.

As Esh Construction approach the autumn 2021 completion, the new corridor has connected the region’s key industrial sites to the city centre.

SSTC3 utilised the NEPO 211 Framework for Civil Engineering and Infrastructure Works. Created by Sunderland City Council and the North East Procurement Organisation, it also piloted the National Themes, Outcomes, Measures (TOMs) Framework to ensure that SSTC3 would have real social and economic benefits for the city.

Sunderland City Council’s Chief Executive, Patrick Melia, said: “As with many other projects we’re working on across Sunderland, SSTC3 is delivering tangible benefits to our communities through our work with Esh Construction, who share a commitment to added value through their work.

“This project is improving our city’s connectivity and transport links for residents and businesses, but we feel it is important that they benefit from the project itself and not just the end result.”

Esh Construction committed to several social and economic value targets for Sunderland, as well as the surrounding local area; Tyne & Wear, Durham, and Northumberland. 93% of workers are from the North East and 53% are from Sunderland. In total, 32 new local jobs have been created. Meanwhile, spend with local SME’s is expected to hit £21.6m.

Esh Construction’s SSTC3 Project Director, Steve Garrigan, said: “This project has set a benchmark for future schemes. It has been a really big challenge and it has pushed the boundaries. We piloted a new framework which targeted the elements of social worth to benefit the community.”

Asbestos Audit is just one North East SME that has benefitted from SSTC3. Having a workforce of six back in 2018, they have since grown to a team of 18 people throughout the duration of SSTC3. Director Ben Pickard said: “SSTC3 has provided a local business such as ours the opportunity to grow and prosper in difficult times.”

Sustainable employment was a requirement of the SSTC3 contract with Esh Construction. Sunderland-based Lint Engineering employed seven local workers to complete engineering services on the project, continuing work through the pandemic where many in the sector struggled. Meanwhile, Northumbrian Roads have been a major player in the development of North East infrastructure for many years, but SSTC3 is the biggest single contract in their history.

The SSTC3 project has set the standard for employment sustainability and market growth within regional SMEs. Sunderland City Council and Esh Construction have demonstrated how localised procurement practices can contribute to regionalised prosperity.


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