North East construction companies assess difficult year after Tolent collapse

Tom Barton talks to North East construction businesses one year on from the collapse of Tolent.

Repercussions from the collapse of one of the North East's biggest building constructors are still being felt one year on - but there are already signs of a brighter future.

Tolent, which was responsible for some of the most high-profile buildings in the North East including Hadrians Tower in Newcastle and Riverside in Sunderland announced it had entered administration on Monday 13 February due to "significant challenges including the rising costs".

All of the company's staff were made redundant and it has ceased operating.

The effects of the company's collapse were felt across the North East, particularly by construction firm Premier Plant and Civil Engineering. They lost months of work practically overnight while still being owed over £900,000 by Tolent.

Premier Plant and Civil Engineering were owed over £900,000 by Tolent. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"It was quite surreal at the time because nothing like that had ever happened to us before in our ten years of trading," owner Michael Thompson explained. "There were a few sleepless nights.

"I still don't think to this day that it has quite sunk in. Like what could you do with that amount of money? It could have been a huge investment for the company."

Mr Thompson's business was just one of dozens to suffer. There were seven businesses in the Tolent group placed into administration and between them, they owed around £140million, much of it to small businesses.

Among those affected was a ceiling contractor owed £360,000, a Middlesbrough joinery company owed £350,000 and a Newcastle glass company owed £77,000.

Contractors were not the only ones affected with projects already underway left searching for new contractors to complete work.

Affordable housing property developer Gentoo spent months searching for a different company to complete work at a site in Hetton le Hole in Sunderland.

Businesses across the North East were left out of pocket by time. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"It's really difficult," Joanna Gordon said. "It is difficult for us when we think about those customers who could have benefitted from those homes more quickly.

"But here we are we have recovered from that position with some small delays on site and the end outcome is we have some really great high-quality homes."

It was a bad year for the North East construction sector as a whole with Tolent not the only company to go under.

"I don't think it is just Tolent as we had a very bad year in the North East last year," Tim Barrett from Construction Alliance North East explained. "We lost Tolent, we lost Metnor and we lost Howard Russell - three examples of good-sized contractors.

"Turnover in the North East is North of a quarter of a billion pounds with that alone some of the money was from outside the region, so we were bringing money into the region."

However, despite the difficulties, businesses have survived among a host of others with the green shoots of recovery still being felt across the North East construction sector with hopes 2024 will bring better fortunes.

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