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Home » BrewDog Boss Claims Delays At Flagship North East Development Is Costing Region ‘hundreds Of Jobs’

BrewDog Boss Claims Delays At Flagship North East Development Is Costing Region ‘hundreds Of Jobs’

The chief executive of pub chain BrewDog is claiming delays on Count Durham leisure development Milburngate are costing the region ‘hundreds of jobs’, as well as taxes and new facilities.

Plans for the Milburngate Scheme were first revealed eight years ago following the demolition of the Durham’s former passport office, and was hailed as a major job-creating scheme, creating office space for 400 jobs, as well as new housing, bars and restaurants, a cinema and a hotel. However, completion of the development hit the buffers at the start of the year – shortly before planned openings for a new Premier Inn, BrewDog bar and Everyman Cinema – when main contractor Tolent fell into administration.

The outspoken BrewDog boss James Watt has hit out at the scheme’s delays, saying “our economy is missing out on hundreds of jobs, the Government are missing out on valuable tax revenue and the good people of Durham are missing out on brilliant entertainment”. Mr Watts has aimed his criticism at Durham County Council, but the authority says it shares his disappointment at the delays seen at Milburngate and was “disappointed with the progress at this site.”

Read more: Luminous Group seals £1m fundraising deal to roll out training tech platform Read more: Tyneside recruiter Jackson Hogg to create hundreds of jobs A statement from the council says it is up to the site’s developer to finish the scheme, while a statement from the developer has highlighted work being carried out, as well as tensions between it and the council.

The scheme was originally driven by Durham-based property developer Arlington Real Estate, Carillion and the Richardson family, but Arlington later acquired Carillion’s stake following the support services firm’s collapse. Leisure tenants signed up for the first phase include boutique cinema company Everyman, bar and restaurant brands Marston’s Pitcher & Piano, BrewDog, The Botanist, Bar + Block, Miller and Carter and a 92-bed flagship Premier Inn hotel.

Metal barriers have continued to surround the buildings on the banks of the River Wear since the start of the year, when main contractor Tolent collapsed into administration before it had reached practical completion.

BrewDog founder and CEO James Watt said on business networking LinkedIn: “We signed a lease for a new location in the Milburngate development in Durham in August 2021. We completed the construction project and were ready to open the bar in 2022 with all relevant consents and permits in place.

“Due to the epic ineptitude and complete paralysis of the council our economy is missing out on hundreds of jobs, the Government are missing out on valuable tax revenue and the good people of Durham are missing out on brilliant entertainment options.

“We still have no idea when we can open our doors despite the site being ready for well over a year now. If we needs a stark example of why the UK is falling behind other countries in terms of economic prosperity, look no further.”

A spokesperson for Durham County Council said: “We are aware of the concerns of BrewDog and we are disappointed with the progress at this site. It is important to clarify that Durham County Council is not responsible for the delivery of this development. The Milburngate site is owned by a private company and is not in the control of the council.

“They are responsible for resolving issues arising from work carried out by the contractor Tolent and that need to be addressed before the site can open. It is not within the council’s remit to say when this will be. The council has worked tirelessly to try and support the success of this scheme, and further information will be provided when it is available.”

A spokesperson for the developer, the Arlington Real Estate and Richardson joint venture, which is registered on Companies House as MGH Card, said: “We have every sympathy with BrewDog. Durham Council is to be the landlord for the occupiers and had challenged some of the original design, these matters are resolved and are awaiting formal agreement. Also, when our main contractor entered administration, we started a technical review of works. The review has confirmed that on some parts of the building an incorrect thickness of intumescent paint was applied to some steel.

“We have appointed external experts to deal with the problem and prepare a new timetable for the completion of this work, we will be able to give an indication of the completion date once the council has reached agreement with the development team. We are incredibly disappointed by the findings of the technical review, as this has caused our development to run late and is inconveniencing future occupiers and people in Durham. However, we must always prioritise safety. Everyone can be assured that our team is working at pace to deal with these issues.”

Amanda Hopgood, the Lib Dem council leader of the authority, added: “To lay the blame on Durham County Council for the current fiasco at the Milburngate Centre is a gross misrepresentation of the facts – in short, this is simply not true. Brewdog needs to challenge site developer MGH Card about this. The county council doesn’t own the site. We have an agreement for lease on completion of the work, but the development is not finished, so we cannot take the lease. The joint venture’s spokesperson accepted that its work at Milburngate is running late in the statement that they made to media, and that the developer is responsible for dealing with the issues.”

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