Highlands & Islands

Building boss says past 18 months 'toughest ever'

Builders
Image caption Mr Pedrana said trading has been seriously difficult

A construction company boss believes the past 18 months have been the hardest the building industry has ever experienced.

UBC Group chief executive James Pedrana said the collapse of another firm, Rok, had left him "extremely saddened".

Started 30 years ago on the Western Isles, UBC has offices in Glasgow, Inverness, Fort William and Elgin.

Mr Pedrana said trading conditions were tough but was cautiously optimistic of slight improvements in some areas.

UBC has contracts for projects in Moray, Tayside and central Scotland.

Exeter-based Rok collapsed last week causing job loses across the UK.

Hundreds of people are employed in Scotland and the company has multi-million pound contracts with Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

In June, one of the Highlands' biggest civil engineering and construction companies went into administration.

Inverness-based Highland Quality Construction (HQC), which specialises in road building, had an annual turnover of £20m.

'Critical role'

Mr Pedrana said he was sorry for the workers and their families caught up in the problems at Rok.

He said: "In my opinion the past 18 months have been the toughest the industry has ever experienced, and we understand that recovery is still some way off.

"I believe that our clients, and particularly the public sector, have a critical role in assisting our industry to tackle this situation.

"It is enormously important that action be taken now to speed up planning and contract awarding processes. This will enable us to keep staff employed, and at this time that is surely one of the most important aspirations for the country as a whole."

Mr Pedrana added: "Like all sectors of the industry UBC Group has had to critically examine all overheads and seek efficiencies wherever possible."

Preferred bidder

The chief executive's optimism was drawn from the recent award of contracts in the Highlands worth more than £11m.

The projects include refurbishing Lochaber Leisure Centre in Fort William and building the Joint Police and Social Work Unit in Elgin.

UBC has also been appointed the preferred bidder for two contracts with East Dunbartonshire Council and it is in advanced negotiation for a number of other projects in the Highland and central Scotland areas.

It has also secured a number of Ministry of Defence contracts including works in Kinlochleven and Balmacara.

UBC is also involved in the £2m redevelopment of a Grade II listed building in Broughty Ferry for a private client and a project in Carluke.

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