Southend’s economy is set to receive a much needed boost after Wates Construction was appointed main contractor for The Forum Southend-on-Sea, the town’s new library and learning facility.
Wates emerged from a rigorous procurement process as the successful bidder for the ground-breaking project, one of the first of its kind in the country.
And the firm's appointment will bring immediate benefits for south east Essex as it has pledged to source as much labour and materials from the local area as possible.
Wates has committed to sourcing up to 75 per cent of its supply chain partners for the prestigious project from within a 50-mile radius of Southend.
It will also provide four apprenticeships, stage 'community days' in the area and host 70 work experience days for local students and school pupils.
The firm has also pledged to stage a training event where it will recruit local unemployed people to a two-week training course with the hope of finding them work or further training opportunities.
The £27m Forum scheme is a joint enterprise between Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, the University of Essex and South Essex College of Further & Higher Education.
Derek Jarvis, Executive Councillor for Culture & Tourism, said: "I am delighted that we have now appointed a contractor and that work on The Forum can begin in earnest.
"This is a really exciting project which will bring fantastic benefits for residents, students and visitors to the town.
"A huge amount of ground work has been done just to get us to where we are today, but the appointment of Wates as main contractors brings everything into sharp focus.
"Once they take possession and people start seeing their machinery moving around the site it will all start to become very real. It's very exciting."
Professor Nigel South, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Partnerships) for the University of Essex, said: "We are pleased that developments are moving forward to create The Forum in Southend and that Wates Construction are now appointed to get the project underway.
"This vibrant new facility will provide the growing number of students in Southend, as well as the wider community, with a high-quality new library, a gallery and a new meeting place, alongside state-of-the-art research and learning facilities.
"We look forward to working closely with our partner organisations as the development starts taking shape."
John Hayles, Acting Principal and Chief Executive of South Essex College, added: "Being National Apprenticeship Week it is great to be part of this announcement that will create four new apprentices locally, especially with us being the largest provider of apprenticeships in the local area."
Ian Vickers, Managing Director for Wates Construction, said: "We are delighted to have been chosen as the main contractor for this flagship project in Southend-on-Sea.
"We will deliver an exceptional building, but more importantly we will immerse ourselves in the local community.
"We have committed to using local labour where possible, and want the project to be used as an educational tool in Southend-on-Sea.
"We will be providing many work experience placements, taking on a number of apprentices, running community days, and putting local unemployed people through our Building Futures programme, which gives further opportunities of employment or training. This is a very exciting time for the local community, and we are proud to be part of it."
Due to be completed in August 2013, The Forum was given the green light by planners in August last year and will be built on the site of the former Farringdon Car Park.
It will provide a new public and academic library to replace the existing Central Library, a new teaching facility for the College and new research and learning facilities for the University. The Forum will also deliver a new home for the Focal Point Gallery, as well as a new café and lecture theatre.
The Council is providing £12.5m towards the cost of the project, with the University contributing £10.4m and the College £4m.