THE Buchan community IS benefiting from construction of the new HMP Grampian in Peterhead - despite claims by a Peterhead councillor that there would be no jobs for local people in building the new prison.
Civil contractors David Smith, based at Crimond, contacted the Buchanie last week to refute the claim by Cllr Alan Buchan that no locals were being employed in the construction of the jail.
He tendered for the ground-clearing work and has been on-site since the start of the year and has built up a good working relationship with Skanska, the firm overseeing the work.
Mr Smith, who has been in business for almost a decade, says that he currently has 50 men working on-site, and has had to employ men to undertake the contract work.
“We are doing all the ground work at the prison and the landscaping etc and it’s a fantastic job for us,” he said.
“Skanska have come here and given a commitment to employing local people and they have stuck by that commitment.
“Everything is getting ploughed back into the local community, from servicing of the machinery to buying fuel for the vans - it all adds up. To say there are no local jobs, and no benefits to the Buchan area is just rubbish,” he added.
Gareth Jacques, project director with Skanska, said that one of the commitments they had given the Scottish Prison Service - one of its biggest clients - was that the prison is a community facing prison and that wherever possible, they would employ local people and contractors and use local suppliers, which is exactly what they were doing.
“David’s company has standards which aligned with ours and he was a perfect choice for the work,” he said.
”We currently have 75 people working on site and out of that total between 55 and 60 are local. We also have a working partnership with the Jobcentre in Peterhead and we have employed some of our own site labourers and office manager who are all from the local area.
“We are also in discussion with Banff and Buchan College with regard to apprenticeships which could be offered.
“It’s not in our interest to bring lots and lots of people from hundreds of miles away if some of the non-specialist trades can be carried out by local companies” he added.
Mr Jacques said Skanska had also spent considerable time with neighbours and residents in the surrounding area of the jail.
“We are aware of the impact a project like this can have on a community and we recognise the importance of communicating our plans early so that people know what to expect and can raise any concerns they may have.
“To do this, we gave a presentation at a special welcome meeting at the Palace Hotel in town and told them what was involved, how we would do the work and the impact it would have on the neighbouring area and what we would do to minimise this,” he said.
“As part of our commitment to Health & Safety, we also organised a visit to the site for Burnhaven School pupils and teachers to identify the dangers of construction sites, David and his team helped out on the day by showing the schoolchildren some of his excavators and machinery which is a good example of everyone working together to do something positive within the community,” he said.
Mr Jacques added that work on the new jail was going very well and was on schedule at the moment.
“David is doing a terrific job for us with his workforce and together with the rest of our client’s team at SPS, we are all working towards the scheduled completion in summer 2013 which will allow the prison to go operational in Winter 2013/14 as planned.”