A Skanska-led consortium has been named preferred bidder for the government’s first Building Schools for the Future contract.

Skanska’s team, which also included architects Wilkinson Eyre and Architects Co-Partnership, was on a shortlist for the Bristol BSF scheme, alongside two other consortiums. One was led by HBG with architect Feilden Clegg Bradley, and the other comprised Laing O’Rourke, Equion and Building Design Partnership.

Building understands that the competition went to a head-to-head between Skanska and HBG after Laing O’Rourke pulled out.

Skanska was chosen at the end of last week, but is still waiting for official confirmation from Bristol council, expected on 24 November.

The contract covers the complete rebuild of four secondary schools: Brislington Enterprise College, Speedwell Technical College, Whitefield Community School and Hartcliffe Engineering College. The schools will be completed on a phased programme between 2007 and 2008.

The decision comes amid growing concern in the industry that the BSF programme will hit delays because contracts are not being awarded fast enough.

Bristol will be the first contract to be awarded, but the decision comes after much delay. Insiders say the lengthy procurement process has given the programme a slow start.

There are also concerns about how councils will make up the shortfall between their Building Schools for the Future funding and the projected cost of their programmes. One London borough faces a funding gap of up to £50m between its government grant and the estimated cost of its programme. Some schools are looking at disposals and relocations to bridge the gap.

The work is not filtering through to the smaller practices

Alex de Rijke, Rijke Marsh Morgan

Meanwhile, some of the architects chosen to produce exemplar designs for the programme have claimed that the process is flawed. Several practices on the 11-strong list said they had not yet been approached to take part in any consortiums because they were too small.

Alex de Rijke, founder of de Rijke Marsh Morgan, said: “We won an award for our work on Kingsdale School, but we haven’t received a single offer of work since the BSF programme began. The work is not filtering through to the smaller practices; it’s all being swept up by the bigger architects because it’s coming in big bundles, at least four schools at a time. We’re going to take action over this – something has to change.”

Partnership for Schools declined to comment.

Skanska Innisfree, a consortium lead by Skanska Infrastructure Development and Innisfree, has won a PFI contract to build three hospitals in Nottinghamshire.

The 32-year contract includes a £300m redevelopment programme. Also on the consortium are: Skanska UK for construction and hard facilities management, Health Care Projects for management services and Medirest for soft FM services. The architect is Swanke Hayden Connell.