Catalyst Lend Lease has been appointed preferred bidder on the much-delayed £2.4bn Birmingham Building Schools for the Future scheme

The firm has beaten off competition from PPP and property specialist Land Securities Trillium to clinch the deal, under which it will rebuild or refurbish 89 secondary schools by 2024. The scheme is the biggest deal so far under the BSF programme, with the £2.4bn including about £1.2bn of capital works.

The work will be carried out in six phases. The first phase, worth £152.4m, is intended to start this April and be complete in 2011. The programme also includes the proposed creation of eight academies. Some intended designs have already been published.

The announcement of a preferred bidder on the scheme comes after delays dating back to last spring. The most recent of these is understood to have been caused by the council seeking further guarantees of private sector funding in the light of the recession.

It is understood the council asked the bidders to submit extra guarantees of private sector funding on at least two occasions before a final decision was taken. However, a source close to Catalyst said the consortium was “confident” it could reach financial close on the project by May, despite the recession.