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It's not just buildings, this is changing lives; in association with Deloitte the dealmakers.

Byline: By Iain Laing

LAW firm Watson Burton's corporate and banking departments are advising the Newcastle division of global engineering consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff on the pounds 200m Newcastle Building Schools for the Future project.

The project is Newcastle City Council's biggest ever facilities contract and much of the project is procured using the government's Private Finance Initiative.

International consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) is the co-founder of the AURA consortium that also includes PFI Investments Ltd and Robertson Capital Projects, who are the sponsors and investors in the project.

Aura won preferred bidder status in 2006 to deliver 16 new and refurbished schools in Newcastle across two phases of the project as part of the government's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. This contract was finalised in July 2007.

PB's programme sponsor David Luscombe said: "The project is so much more than simply delivering bricks and mortar.

"The biggest challenge facing all those involved in BSF is the ability to put in place something that will bring about real change to young people's life chances. PB is delivering facilities that will transform the outlook of schools at the heart of Newcastle's community through the Aura consortium."

PB, as well as being sponsor, is also the design manager and is providing all architecture and engineering design, using an expanded supply chain for key aspects of the project. The Newcastle project team has produced innovative design solutions to deliver enhanced learning to the students of Newcastle.

Newcastle-based Watson Burton is working with PB to advise on the corporate complexities of this role. The work has involved strategic involvement by the legal team, led by head of corporate finance Gillian Hall, to support PB through the transaction, and provide specialist advice on the structure of the company's commitment to the project. The team included corporate and banking associate Mark Lazenby, and corporate solicitor Mark Evans.

This pioneering public/private partnership will, over a 25-year period, design, build, manage, finance and maintain the schools. In conjunction a Local Education Partnership (LEP) with the city council is being established. The aim of the LEP will be to provide a range of services that will improve the educational standards within the city and effect real transformational change.

The eight schools in the first phase of the scheme are Walbottle Campus, Kenton School, Benfield School, Thomas Bewick School and Walkergate, West Jesmond, Canning Street and Stocksfield Avenue primary schools.

Mr Luscombe said: "Watson Burton's advice and informed support was relevant and important, bringing us the results we needed from an extremely committed team."

Gillian Hall, head of corporate finance at Watson Burton, said: "This is an extremely important contract for Parsons Brinckerhoff. We are delighted that PB, a long-standing client of ours, is central to a project that will bring positive change to future generations of Newcastle children."
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 25, 2007
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