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Sun July 21 2019

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Durtnell supply chain braced for losses

9 Jul The Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group has warned that the collapse of Britain’s oldest building firm is further evidence of financial crisis hitting the industry.

R Durtnell & Sons, in the same family ownership since 1591
R Durtnell & Sons, in the same family ownership since 1591

Last week R Durtnell & Sons, owned by the same family for almost 430 years, ceased trading with cashflow having dried up.

The company was founded in 1591 and was based in Brasted in Kent. Recent notable projects include the Turner Contemporary art gallery in Margate, completed in 2008. It turned over £52m in 2017.

The SEC Group said that Durtnell "will become just another statistic in a wave of insolvencies affecting the construction industry, making it the sector with the highest number of insolvencies". It said that suppliers were likely to lose substantial retention monies that Durtnell is holding.

Current projects included restoration work on the Brighton Royal Pavilion Estate. Brighton & Hove City Council said that Durtnell had stopped work on site and was putting together proposals for a company voluntary arrangement.

Accounts published by Durtnell in March 2019 show that retentions totalling £630,000 are owed to the company, but the bulk of those retentions would have been deducted from their supply chain payments, the SEC Group said.  Moreover, the low level of retentions for the Brighton project (only £10k for a £21m project) suggests that Durtnell owes substantially more to its supply chain.

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SEC Group chief executive Rudi Klein said: “Whilst it is extremely sad to lose such a long-established firm, there is now concern for Durtnell’s sub-contractors. The retention monies belong to the businesses – mostly SMEs – in Durtnell’s supply chain and for the most part would have represented their profit margins. The government must now act to adopt Peter Aldous Bill, already in parliament, that protects these monies from upstream insolvencies.”

Since Durtnell began construction work in Brighton in February 2017, the Royal Pavilion Estate project has experienced several unforeseen issue, the council said. A Quaker burial ground was uncovered in August 2017, with human remains excavated by a team of archaeologists and structural issues were discovered with the Corn Exchange’s 200-year old wooden frame and roof trusses.

“We have taken back the site and made it secure. We are committed to completing the refurbishment of these unique buildings to protect their long-term future in the cultural heart of the city,” the council said.

“Over the coming days we’ll be exploring practical options for continuing and completing these essential restoration works as soon as possible and taking forward the wider Royal Pavilion Estate project.”

The Royal Pavilion Estate includes the Royal Pavilion, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Royal Pavilion Garden, Brighton Dome Concert Hall, Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre.

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