Willmott Dixon has beaten Kier to become preferred bidder on a £16m school in the government’s academies programme, it is understood.

The contractor will start work on site at the St Anne’s academy in Rochdale in January.

The deal involves replacing an existing school with a 1,050-place academy, designed by Aedas. It is due to open in September 2010.

The school is Willmott Dixon’s fourth win under the academies framework, which is also used for Building Schools for the Future (BSF) packages worth less than £100m.

In May this year the firm beat Laing O’Rourke to the £90m Middlesbrough BSF scheme, also secured under the framework.

Meanwhile, a report from the CBI this week said delays to the government’s £45bn BSF programme were damaging the economy in the short and long term.

The report said there had been inadequate leadership of the scheme from the government.