Construction of new forest school begins

Category: Construction

Construction works have begun for a new forest school at its South East Coalville development in Leicestershire, delivered for Harworth Group plc, a leading regenerator of land and property for sustainable development and investment, with support from North West Leicestershire District Council and Leicestershire County Council.

Designed by award-winning firm Lungfish Architects, with construction works by Stepnell, the two-form entry school is scheduled to open in 2024, providing 420 places. The new school demonstrates Harworth’s commitment, as part of the Harworth Way, to working with local authorities and other partners to create sustainable communities, with this facility set to benefit the more than 1,000 residents soon to be living on site and those living in the wider area too.

“It’s exciting seeing work starting on the build and we look forward to seeing it taking shape. This school will be a welcome addition to this community, providing much-needed school places and a lovely setting for learning in an innovative way.” Councillor Deborah Taylor, Leicestershire County Council cabinet member for children and families

The school will be built to a bespoke design based on forest school principles. Originating in Scandinavia, the forest school approach promotes education through play and activity while nurturing creativity through self-activity and investigation. To facilitate this, the school design consists of six single storey buildings, designed as a series of pavilions, which include teaching space as well as the school’s hall, kitchen, administration facilities and early years accommodation, all linked by way of a cloister. The teaching pavilions are organised around groups of four classrooms, offering much sought-after flexible teaching opportunities through a range of teaching spaces, such as group rooms and shared learning spaces.

“This new forest school demonstrates the Harworth Way in action, working with local partners to deliver a valuable asset to the local community, creating a sense of place and further enhancing the attractiveness of South East Coalville and the wider area as a place to live. With sustainability at the heart of its design, it will provide a modern and inspiring learning environment that is befitting of its National Forest location. I am grateful to all our partners for facilitating this development, and especially to North West Leicestershire District Council and Leicestershire County Council for their continued support.” David Cockroft, Regional Director – Midlands, Harworth

The classroom spaces have been designed to ensure they are dynamic, naturally lit and naturally ventilated. The school will generate approximately 10% of its own electrical requirements through a roof-mounted solar PV panel system and will use air-source heat pumps to meet its heating requirements. The buildings are intended to complement the largely residential nature of the site, with a contemporary and unique feel that also reflects the National Forest setting.

“This part of North West Leicestershire continues to see a lot of growth and development and I am delighted to see the start of work to bring a new forest school to benefit families and residents in the area. Ensuring infrastructure like roads and schools is delivered for any new settlement is vital to securing the future of our towns and village, so I look forward to seeing the next generation walk through the school doors in September 2024.” Keith Merrie, North West Leicestershire District Council Portfolio Holder for Infrastructure

A groundbreaking ceremony took place on Tuesday 10 October, attended by members of the Harworth team, including Andrew Blackshaw, Chief Operating Officer, and David Cockroft, Regional Director for the Midlands, alongside Councillor Deborah Taylor, Deputy Leader of Leicestershire County Council and cabinet member for children and young people, Councillor Keith Merrie of North West Leicestershire District Council. The leaders also opened a new 21-acre park comprising a riverside corridor with amenity space and several biodiversity enhancement features.

“We’re thrilled to be working with Harworth, and to mark this milestone moment for South East Coalville and its new community, As the first purpose-built forest school for Leicestershire County Council, we are pioneering a model for forest school design that has the potential to shape a new generation of schools. These types of learning environments benefit our children’s wellbeing because of the nature of their design – or rather, because their design is focused on nature. The benefits of balancing indoor and outdoor learning, and the school design that supports it, are achieved by careful consideration of the long-term outcomes and the happiness of pupils and their teachers.” Simon Reid, Managing Director, Lungfish Architects

South East Coalville is Harworth’s largest residential development in its Midlands region. The 250-acre site is situated just two miles from Junction 22 of the M1, and has an outline planning consent for the creation of a sustainable new community of more than 2,000 homes. The development comprises two distinct areas: Hugglescote Grange to the north and Swinfen Vale to the south, both named after surrounding villages. Immediately to the south of the site, is Harworth’s Bardon Hill development, providing 332,000 sq. ft modern Grade A employment space.

To date, Harworth has sold land parcels for the delivery of 793 homes, to housebuilders Redrow, Bellway, Morris Homes and Cadeby Homes and delivered new green space including the planting of over 800 trees. The second phase of the scheme will see the development of new homes, as well as a local centre close to the entrance to the site, where the school will be located, opposite a new Aldi supermarket. More community amenities are planned to be delivered at the site in the coming years.

“Coalville Forest School is an exciting new development that we are delighted to be part of. The sustainable and creative design of the school is exceptional, and aligns well with our comprehensive construction offering at Stepnell. As a complete construction partner, we are proud of our skill to drive forward energy efficiency of buildings and create quality developments to be proud of – this project will be no exception. We are also proud of our strong regional reputation in the East Midlands, and look forward to delivering not only a fantastic project for the people of Coalville, but also leaving a lasting legacy of social value here too.” Tom Sewell, Regional Director, Stepnell

Transformation of engineering campus passes midpoint milestone

Category: Construction

Complete construction partner Stepnell has passed the midpoint of a capital project to substantially upgrade the engineering and technology centre at Leicester College.

Set to complete in November, the redevelopment of the facility on the Abbey Park Campus will provide students with updated learning facilities, to support the delivery of engineering T levels and other types of engineering qualifications.

Stepnell is delivering the construction of a design led by Moss Architecture. Interiors Ltd. The multidisciplinary design team includes quantity surveyors from MDA Ltd, as well as mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineers from Steven Hunt Associates Ltd and structural engineers from Price & Myers Ltd.

The project includes the introduction of and upgrade to new industry standard laboratories. These will be used to teach students across specialist engineering disciplines, including electrical engineering, electronic engineering, pneumatic and hydraulics, programmable logic controllers (PLC) and robotics.

A new mechanical engineering workshop is also being constructed by Stepnell to accommodate industry-standard lathes and milling machines. Additionally, a specialist hand skills development and projects area, welding booths and a state-of-the-art grinding room will be integrated to enhance the hands-on learning experience.

Tom Sewell, regional director at Stepnell, said: “With a consistent pipeline of projects within the education sector, this is the third project we have undertaken for Leicester College. We have a key focus to continue developing lasting public sector client relations. “We understand the college’s needs to provide the best learning experience in the long term while minimising the disruption to the teaching experience during the build, and we’re progressing well ahead of completion in November. “With a strong familiarity within our construction team of the educational needs for aspiring engineers, it’s a highly rewarding project to help create the ideal learning space to educate future talent.”

The capital project supports the introduction of engineering T Level qualifications at Leicester College, with the Department for Education having provided more than £1 million towards the project cost from T-level capital grant funding.

The college aims to help meet the skills demand at higher technical levels regionally and nationally and provide a valid pathway to higher technical qualifications. It aims to support the forecasted 1.2% growth in engineering and electronic engineering occupations available in Leicestershire and Rutland by 2030.

Ibrar Raja, director of engineering at Leicester College, said: “I am delighted to witness the transformation of our engineering building into a state-of-the-art facility that reflects our commitment to providing the best possible learning environment for our students and supports the need for highly qualified and skilled engineers in the region. This refurbishment project embodies our dedication to fostering innovation and excellence in engineering education.”

Work underway on major project in Newark Town Centre

Category: Construction

The first phase to transform the empty former M&S building on Stodman Street in Newark into an attractive hub made up of homes and retail units is underway. This ambitious project will breathe new life into the heart of the town when completed.

Stepnell, a well-established complete construction partner with over 150 years’ heritage in the industry, is undertaking the initial phase and mobilisation of the project.

Councillor Matthew Spoors, Portfolio Holder for Sustainable Economic Development at Newark and Sherwood District Council, said: “It’s exciting to see this project underway. We are showing that initiatives like this can help to develop town centres so that they that offer a vibrant experience which attracts different people at different times. “Without the Council’s intervention, this prominent building could have fallen into disrepair and become an eyesore. We’ve taken action into our own hands and are doing our best for Newark, turning a building that could have been abandoned into a thriving and active area where living, working and shopping come together.

“We actively asked many high street retailers to take on the store but none were interested in occupying the large 32,000sqft building. The fact is that they may already have a presence in nearby Nottingham and Lincoln and it’s not viable for them to occupy such a big building in a town of Newark’s size and location. There is however demand for smaller units and we are confident that the site will be occupied as soon as renovations are complete. This is reflected by the uptake of the retail units by the Travelodge and in the Buttermarket.”

Plans will see the empty building converted into an exciting hub made up of 29 high-quality residential homes in the heart of Newark, which will provide a new town centre housing offer with a sympathetic but eye-catching and vibrant design. There will also be two new retail units which will improve Newark’s retail offer with the aim of attracting more people into the town centre.

Smaller retail units will complement the rest of the town and will look at enhancing the shopping offer in the centre. The District Council has been successful in the past; although they own very few buildings in the town centre, since taking over and managing the area of the Buttermarket facing Middlegate, fantastic tenants such as Tambo Lounge, Iguazu, Specsavers and Inspire have collectively created a space for learning, shopping and socialising. With a track record for providing attractive units, the District Council continue to support town centre occupation.

Tom Cartledge, Co-Chair of the Newark Town Board, said: “This is an opportunity to transform a large empty building into something that will be hugely beneficial to the health of our high street in the future. “Across the country, retail in towns and cities is in decline which is why we’ve put this project together to inject new life in the area with the aim to make the heart of Newark a great place to live and shop. “There are many other projects running alongside the development including Newark Cultural Heart which has already brought people to the town centre through creating exciting events and programmes and the Stodman Street work is an extra step in encouraging more to visit, stay longer and take advantage of the activities and hospitality on offer.”

It is also putting emphasis on bringing sustainability aspects into the build. This development will utilise solar panels on the roof, have modern insulation and will recycle up to 90% of all materials removed from site. It will also create new green planting and expand St Marks Lane, opening up the link between Lombard Street and Stodman Street.

The first phase of work is likely to take place until the end of Christmas this year with the construction taking place soon after. Completion is expected to be in summer 2025.

Tom Sewell, Regional Director at Stepnell, said: “We are proud to be chosen as a trusted construction partner and to be beginning the important first phase of demolition works, which will create the space for building an exciting new hub in Newark. We are considerate of the need to minimise disruption to the public throughout the project, in what is a busy area of footfall in the town. “As the works progress, we will be making significant investment back into the local community. This includes targeted regional spending, employability programmes with local schools and colleges, and sustainability initiatives to reduce our carbon impact.”

The scheme has been procured through the Procure Partnerships Framework, which supports public sector bodies to procure contractor partners, divided regionally to support the values of local delivery with national governance.

The Framework supports public sector bodies to deliver their strategic targets, and is designed to be flexible yet robust, providing clients with demonstrable value for money when procuring their projects.

Tom Woolley, Key Account Manager (East), Procure Partnerships Framework: “Procure Partnerships Framework are absolutely delighted to have supported Newark and Sherwood District Council in appointing Stepnell to deliver this transformational scheme. “The completed works will join a wide range of successful schemes delivered by Stepnell in partnership with Procure Partnerships Framework, and it will be fantastic to see the boost that this project will provide to the people of Newark. It has been a pleasure to work with Newark and Sherwood District Council on this scheme, and we are excited to see how subsequent projects develop through the Towns Fund initiative.”

The Stodman Street development is one of many projects being funded by Newark Towns Board’s successful application to the Government’s Towns Fund initiative. It is being delivered by Newark and Sherwood District Council whose aim it is to breathe new life in Newark town centre. Other projects include the £3m restoration of Newark Castle and a £2.1m Cultural Heart project aiming to provide a varied and exciting events programme alongside investments to improve the town centre even further.

St. Bernadette’s Community BBQ

Category: Construction

What a day!

We had a phenomenal day yesterday holding the St. Bernadette’s Community BBQ. A huge thank you to the team that made this happen and the St. Bernadette’s community. Thank you to our event sponsors including ArcadisGreens Plant Ltd Sub ContractorHawk Group Services LtdInspire Architects, and Sportsfields.

Mat Mason also attended bringing along The Community Kit Bag, known as the shop in a trailer. The Community Kit Bag provides low cost and free sports clothes and equipment to those who need it and helps support more people getting into sport whilst raising money to provide free mental health training and resources to sports clubs across the UK. 

There was plenty going on with the local news in attendance, St. Bernadette’s RFC, Bristol Bears and local Council members.

St. Bernadette’s is due to complete in March 2024 includes a new clubhouse, pitches, floodlights and associated works clearly means so much to all in the local area and St. Bernadette’s RFC. 

Work commences at Queen Alexandra Hospital

Category: Construction

Construction to the new main entrance at Queen Alexandra (QA) Hospital is now underway, set to include changing facilities and an M&S Food store in the new amenities for patients and staff.

Delivered by healthcare construction specialists Stepnell for Portsmouth Hospitals University (PHU) NHS Trust, the 12-month project includes the creation of a new Changing Places facility, one of three accessible toilet and changing spaces set to arrive at the hospital soon. A lecture theatre and clothing store The Stock Shop will also be constructed.

To accommodate the works taking place on the live hospital site, a temporary side entrance has been created and hoardings have been erected around the area of construction, closing the main evolving door at the existing entrance.

Stepnell’s works to the main entrance comes as part of a series of significant improvements to the Queen Alexandra Hospital site, as the PHU NHS Trust aims to continue to deliver high quality services in a modern, welcoming and safe environment.

Mark Orchard, chief finance officer at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust, said: “This is a fantastic new development which will help improve the experience of those visiting our hospital site. It is another step in a number of significant improvements to the QA site, including improved green spaces. These plans will help us continue to deliver high quality services in efficient, well-maintained and well-designed buildings.”

Rob Speirs, director at Stepnell, said: “Taking advantage of our wealth of experience and expertise in healthcare projects, we are helping Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust to create a functional and appealing main entrance to the Queen Alexandra hospital that meets the needs of hospital staff, patients and other members of the public. “As part of our commitment to social value, we have ambitions to spend and engage with a local supply chain of subcontractors wherever possible. Being a healthcare specialist, we have a clear understanding of how to best achieve these aims on hospital projects and will be working closely with our supply chain to ensure we deliver to the standard we expect as a complete contractor.”

Stepnell will be working alongside Noviniti to undertake the project for PHU NHS trust, a developer with experience on the QA Hospital site, having built the North car park in 2022.

For more information on the project works taking place at Queen Alexandra Hospital as well as to find out more about Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust, visit:

Stepnell completes Health & Wellbeing Hub

Category: Construction

A charity funded Health and Wellbeing Hub for staff at Chesterfield Royal Hospital (CRH) NHS Foundation Hospital has now been finished by complete construction partner Stepnell, opening as part of the 75th anniversary celebrations of the NHS.

Using its extensive building expertise, the Stepnell team was responsible for design elements and quick delivery of the purpose-built facility, which is intended for hospital staff to use in support of their health and wellbeing. It includes facilities such as a state-of-the-art gym, counselling rooms, areas for complimentary therapies and group or individual reflections after traumatic incidents.

The finished Hub benefitted from Stepnell’s whole team working approach to develop and finalise the design with consultants and subcontractors – including Southgate and Sarabia ArchitectsMAC Consulting and Adept Consulting Engineers – to best meet the client’s budget. BIM coordination software was used in tandem with OneClick to enhance project discussions and engage early with the hospital Trust.

Tom Sewell, regional director at Stepnell, said: “Our team has gone above and beyond to ensure quality throughout the design and build of this new Health and Wellbeing Hub. As well as ensuring the project was built on time and within budget, we were also proud to have supported the hospital alongside local people, communities and businesses to help raise the required project funds. We are thrilled with the end result and the positive feedback received from stakeholders across the project.”

Stepnell’s work on the prestigious project featured a bespoke social value strategy, which included creating jobs for three local people, as well as organising fundraising events and carrying out significant social value work within the local community.

Dr Hal Spencer, chief executive of CRH NHS Trust, said: “We want to be recommended as a place to come to work and for the clinical care we provide. The Health and Wellbeing Hub is pretty unique in allowing us to offer this kind of facility to colleagues. I am especially proud of us opening on the day of the celebrations for NHS75. Along with our Emergency Department, Pediatric Assessment Unit, the Community Diagnostic Centres and much more, we are redefining the role and abilities of this fantastic hospital.”

Over the course of the project, more than 100 hours of support into employment training was provided to Chesterfield College and Parkside Community School and a cumulative total of 47 weeks of training was provided for trainees and apprentices studying at Level 2, 3 and 4+. Furthermore, Stepnell committed to a local supply chain by ordering building materials within a 30-mile radius of the project, which achieved a 50% local spend, including 36% spend with local SMEs.

Sue Woollett, social value manager at Stepnell, said: “This project is the epitome of what it means to put the community at the centre of our work. Stepnell was fully committed to the project with our own fundraising support for the hospital’s charity on top of being the appointed complete construction partner for the delivery of the hub. “It was an amazing project to be part of and we are delighted to be involved in providing a place for hospital staff to enjoy, as well as supporting the wider community during our time on-site, from young people to local tradespeople.”