News -John Neill

Stepnell Project Manager shortlisted for Construction Manager of the Year Title

Project manager John Neill, who is based at our Rugby head office, has been shortlisted by industry body the Chartered Institute of Building for the title of Construction Manager of the Year.

John has been named as a finalist in the awards, which recognise the UK’s best construction managers, for his exceptional work on the widely-acclaimed Remembrance Centre built by Stepnell at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. 

The RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) award-winning £15.7 million centre, which opened in October 2016, provides enhanced and expanded facilities for the growing number of visitors to the Arboretum, the UK’s national focus for remembrance. The Construction Manager of the Year Awards will be announced in a ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel on 27 September.

John was put forward for the awards after being nominated by the client team at the National Memorial Arboretum for his superb performance.

‘An outstanding success’
Sarah Montgomery, managing director of the National Memorial Arboretum, says: “The new Remembrance Centre project has been an outstanding success both in our eyes and in the eyes of our visiting public; an important contributing factor to that success was the appointment of Stepnell as main contractor, and the appointment of John Neill as project manager. John was a pleasure to work with, building strong working relationships with the Arboretum team and demonstrating a clear understanding of our needs as a client.”

‘The quality of the finished product is exemplary’

Clive Layton, director for construction consultants Edmond Shipway who managed the overall project on behalf of the National Memorial Arboretum, comments: “This was one of the most successful projects I have worked on in 40 years. Without a shadow of doubt, most of that success was as a result of John’s efforts and approach to the inevitable issues all construction projects face … The quality of the finished product is exemplary and across the hundreds of various people who have now visited and inspected, some with an extremely critical eye, I am not aware of one negative comment on what has been delivered.”

John, who is a finalist in the Public Infrastructure category of the Construction Manager of the Year Awards, says: “I am incredibly proud of my role leading the team which created the iconic new Remembrance and Learning Centre. The finished building is a sympathetic addition to the National Memorial Arboretum and has provided this national site of remembrance and commemoration with world-class facilities.”  Challenges met by John included managing the exceptionally tight 50-week construction programme so that the building was completed ready for the 2016 Armistice Day ceremonies and events. He also devised a number of solutions to streamline the build process, in no way compromising on quality, to achieve significant cost and time savings.  As well as ensuring that every aspect of the build achieved the very highest quality standards, John and his team also enabled the existing facilities to stay fully operational for the National Memorial Arboretum’s staff and 300,000 annual visitors during the construction programme.

Stepnell director Bill Haynes says: “John’s management of this high-profile, complex and nationally significant project was exceptional and he thoroughly deserves his place as a Construction Manager of the Year finalist. We are thrilled for him and will be wishing him every success at the awards ceremony later this month.”

Designed by Glenn Howells Architects, the new Remembrance Centre building has successfully brought together an existing chapel, former visitor centre and external spaces and gardens. The building features a dramatic drum-shaped rotunda audio visual theatre space, an interpretation exhibition, a large restaurant, welcome and orientation area and a learning centre. It has a limestone façade – echoing the Portland stone of the nearby Armed Forces Memorial - while a timber colonnade links it to the Arboretum’s original visitor centre which has been retained and extended. The Centre also includes a timber portico and slatted timber cloisters. Heroes’ Square, a central courtyard space, has been created within the cloisters and provides a formal square for set-piece ceremonies. A landscaped garden leads into the wider Arboretum where there are over 30,000 maturing trees and over 330 memorials. The centre has already received a number of accolades, including the Regional Award and the Building of the Year title at the RIBA West Midlands regional awards in recognition of its architectural excellence.  The project was also recognised by the RICS Awards for the West Midlands - which celebrate the region’s most outstanding construction developments – taking the top awards in the Community Benefit and Tourism & Leisure categories.