BUILDING work on a controversial multi-million pound taxpayer-funded hotel at the home of Hampshire cricket could restart “in a matter of days”, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Civic chiefs say a new contractor could in place in just days time that will at last see workmen back at the Ageas Bowl.
The construction site of a huge new luxury Hilton has been closed off for five months after former contractors Denizen went into administration.
But despite news work could soon recommence there are fears that the huge delay in opening the hotel could cost the local economy long-term.
It came as it emerged that Co-operative Group, which partially owns Co-operative Bank that is funding the scheme, is reportedly set to announce losses of £2 billion in results for 2013 due next month.
Eastleigh Borough Council is underpinning the whole scheme with £27m of taxpayers' cash.
Leader Keith House told councillors at a meeting that it was “hoped that a new contractor will be on site in a matter of days”.
He said they were not responsible for appointing the new contractor and refused to elaborate, but told the Daily Echo after the meeting that if he had meant a significant time he would have said months.
The facility, in West End, was set to create 500 jobs, pumping up to £55m a year into the local economy on its hoped for opening next month.
But the site has been locked up since chief contractor Denizen went into administration in October.
Opposition councillors doubt the hotel will be completed by the time England play India in a Test match at the ground in July and Hampshire Cricket said it was unable to comment.
Now Cllr House has conceded delays could have a knock-on impact in the wider economy because “it will take longer for the benefits to be realised”.
“It's not a cost benefit that can be quantified and doesn't directly affect the council,” he added.
“At the point when the conference facility and hotel open we will be able to assess these issues.”
The Liberal Democrat-controlled authority agreed to pay more than £27m for the completed hotel - unchanged even if building charges spiral.
It has already spent around £3.4m upfront in consultancy and services fees and has bought the ground the hotel sits on for £1.1m.
The council also bought the lease of the 167-acre Rose Bowl site for £6.5m in 2011, as revealed by the Daily Echo.
Cllr House said although professional consultancy costs to find a new contractor had been budgeted for, this had inevitably increased given the delay.
However, mechanical engineering work had been lower creating savings.
“We consider there will be no additional cost to the council,” he said.
The announcement comes after the Daily Echo revealed how leaked documents showed that Denizen went bust after bosses revealed they would lose more than £2m by completing the Hampshire project.
The Co-operative Bank withdrew further funding when bank bosses became aware of Denizen's financial problems, according to the report.
The bank said it had done due diligence when the contracts were signed.
The documents also showed how Hampshire companies are owed a combined £761,000 as a result Denizen's collapse.
Asked what support they were getting, Cllr House said staff and councillors were working to get a new contractor in place.
Spokespeople for Co-operative Bank and Hampshire Cricket would not comment on whether a contractor was imminent, but said they were working hard with all stakeholders for a solution.