Experts warn Olympic Park delays could hinder success

The slow progress of appointing a landscape contractor to manage the northern part of the Olympic Park could jeopardise its success and leave smaller companies struggling to meet ever-tighter deadlines, say industry figures.

Although the application deadline for transforming the northern area of the former industrial land has now closed and the landscaping contract for the Olympic Park inches closer, in reality the successful firm will not be appointed until this summer.

An Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) representative said the applications are now being evaluated, following the 15 January deadline, and a shortlist will be created in the spring, with the appointment following the season after.

But BALI technical director Neil Huck said he had been led to believe an overall managing contractor would be announced almost immediately following the deadline and the long timescale could cause problems.

He said: "They're going to lose another season if they're not careful; we pointed out to the ODA that it takes time for landscaping and bedding to mature, and if they're going to leave it until the last minute it may be very difficult.

"The experience of the Athens Olympics will bear that out - it ended up costing more because they had to buy larger stock to make an impact."

James Coles & Sons Nurseries managing director James Coles agreed it was a concern. "It's extremely worrying, particularly with regard to the supply of trees, shrubs and plants.

"No grower is going to risk putting a lot of stock down on the off-chance they win a contract."

The contractor for the northern part of the park will be responsible for managing the transformation of 40ha of former industrial land and landfill currently being cleared and cleaned, into new open spaces, parklands and waterways, including new allotments to replace the Manor Garden allotments that were previously on the site.

The ODA has said it is expected the appointed contractor will select and manage a number of specialist sub-contractors. A similar contract for the southern area of the park will be issued in the summer.

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