As town-centre regeneration creates job opportunities in Kent and Surrey, Robert Smith of Hays Montrose looks at some of the major projects in the region

One of the biggest projects currently taking place in Surrey is the regeneration of Feltham, to the south-west of London. Estimated to be worth about £50m, this city-centre project started in March this year and will take three years to complete. The project, which is being managed by Barratt Developments, includes residential, leisure and commercial construction. Subcontractors are also handling aspects of the town regeneration. Lynne Crowe, manager for Hays Construction, says: "Feltham is looking a bit tired and is really in need of a boost. engineers, site managers and project managers are in high demand, and site managers can earn up to £35,000 plus benefits."

In Kent, construction professionals are needed for the redevelopment of the Thames Gateway. The Canal District is one of the government's four housing growth areas in the South-east, with houses and apartments being built all the way down the Thames from Greenwich to Ashford and Sittingbourne. A major 6000-unit project is taking place in Ashford alone - although plans might be changed because of the Environment Agency's policy of discouraging building on flood plains.

A combination of PFI projects and private contractors are set to build 100,000 houses over the next year and a further 200,000 over the following two years in the Thames Gateway.

In Hounslow, west of London, there is a massive redevelopment of the shopping centre and surrounding area, estimated to be worth £140m. Residential, retail and leisure redevelopment, due to start in November this year, will completely overhaul the town centre.

There is also a new shopping centre in Croydon and a fit-out of the existing mall. This was begun in January this year, and is set to be completed by Christmas. Although relatively small compared with other regeneration projects, this is a big project for Croydon, and is worth about £10m.

Maidstone town centre is another regeneration project, run by Scottish contractor Miller Construction. Miller will be responsible for building a new shopping centre, Fremlin Walk, on the site of the old Fremlin Brewery. They will do this by redeveloping brownfield sites, such as car parks, shops and roads. Worth £14m, the project started in March last year and should be completed by June 2006. Labourers and tradesmen, site managers and engineers are in high demand, with site managers able to earn up to £32,000, plus car or car allowance, pension and healthcare scheme. Crowe says that, in six months' time, Miller will also be looking for professionals with interiors backgrounds. "What contractors are looking for obviously changes after a period of time. Fremlin Walk was a project everyone wanted to be involved in, so it wasn't hard to find the right candidate.

"Maidstone and Ashford are the main areas people will travel to," adds Crowe. "It used to be easy to find local people for jobs about three years ago, but this is getting harder. This is because there are lots of local contractors now operating in the areas. People are joining them, and being well looked-after so they don't necessarily want to move on; before, candidates used to feel ‘the bigger the better' about the company they wanted to join. The focus seems to be on quality of life now."

In Kent and Surrey, the split between housing and commercial is about 60% and 40% respectively, with a lot of public sector work. Housing has definitely slowed down over the past five months, and the redevelopment of town centres has come to the fore.