County Council’s Chester Farm developer plunges into administration

Chester Farm is undergoing a major refurbishment NNL-190620-171905005
Chester Farm is undergoing a major refurbishment NNL-190620-171905005

Shaylor Group, the construction firm tasked with redeveloping the jewel in Northamptonshire’s heritage crown, has gone into administration.

Roman walled town Chester Farm near Irchester was undergoing a £12.7m restoration scheme funded by the Heritage Lottery and Northamptonshire County Council - with the bulk of the money being stumped up by NCC.

The Chester Farm scheme was being managed by Shaylor NNL-190620-172315005

The Chester Farm scheme was being managed by Shaylor NNL-190620-172315005

Although it was running at least a year behind schedule, the farm held an open day last weekend to finally allow some visitors to take a look around the prized site.

But yesterday (Wednesday, June 19) Shaylor Group appointed administrators after running into financial issues and 200 staff have been made redundant.

It is not yet known what effect this could have on the Chester Farm development and nobody from the county council was immediately available to comment this afternoon (Thursday, July 20).

Chester Farm was discussed at today’s Northamptonshire County Council meeting but the administration was not discussed.

As well as being the site of a Roman walled town, the site provides evidence from the Mesolithic, Iron Age and Medieval periods, together with a complex of traditional farm building dating back to the 17th century.

The county council says the overall restoration will provide interpretation, conference and training facilities, café, county-wide archaeological resource centre education facility and office space.

But the scheme has been hit by many issues and back in August 2018, Cllr Michael Clark, who had the portfolio for finance, said the authority was proceeding with the scheme through gritted teeth but had to go ahead or it could be faced with paying back just under £4m pledged by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The project was championed by former leader Jim Harker and in 2013 the authority agreed to pay £4.9m towards the scheme and find funders for the remaining £2.2m gap.

But it failed to find an agency to stump up the cash and had to pick up the bill.

Raj Mittal, from administrators FRP Advisory in Birmingham, said: “Despite the efforts of the directors, the financial issues facing the company were not able to be resolved and resulted in the decision to place the business into administration.

“Our immediate priority is now to support those affected and work closely with the Redundancy Payments Service to ensure that employees receive every support at this difficult time.

“We will also be working closely with clients to ensure the smooth transfer of sites.”

More as we get it.