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SOUTH TYNESIDE CORONER’S COURT BENEFITS FROM UPGRADE AND REFURBISHMENT  Surgo Construction (Surgo), one of the North East’s leading independent main contractors, has successfully handed over a key refurbishment project for South Tyneside Council. In February 2021, Surgo was appointed to extensively refurbish the Coroner’s Court and create new ancillary facilities for court staff, support services, families and clients.  The works necessitated careful planning to overcome various challenges, some of which were not known prior to the contractor’s arrival on site. One of the most challenging elements of the scheme was the relocation of the Council’s IT server which provides borough-wide internet services.  The loss of this service was not an option and the careful planning of this aspect of the works formed a crucial element of the construction programme. The project also required Surgo to operate alongside the existing building services while installing state-of-the-art video links – a key feature of the refurbishment, given the prevailing pandemic guidelines around social distancing at the time - so that cases could still be conducted, and caseload backlogs minimised. Speaking about winning the work and the construction programme overall, Martin Blight, pre-construction director, Surgo Construction, said: “We were delighted with our appointment to this project which allowed us to draw on our in-depth experience of delivering projects within a live working environment. “Given the challenges we have faced, particularly around the need to move critical IT services without interruption to the whole of the South Tyneside Community, we have been able to clearly demonstrate our flexible approach to problem solving on behalf of clients minimising any disruption caused.     “Clear communication and careful planning enabled this aspect of the project to proceed without any setbacks. “Now that work has completed and because of the enhanced operational environment it provides for the coroner and his team  , we are satisfied that it is a job well done and we look forward to continuing our professional relationship with South Tyneside Council as it continues to invest in its estate.” South Tyneside Council operates a busy coronial jurisdiction and serves culturally diverse communities. In fact, the Gateshead and South Tyneside coroner area is approximately 80 square miles with a population of around 352,000 where 10% of the population is currently aged 65+. Senior Coroner, Terence Carney, says that the upgraded facilities were essential to ensure his team could efficiently conduct its work, alongside the Northumbria Police Authority, the NHS and South Tyneside Council. Councillor Joanne Bell, Lead Member for Resources and Innovation at South Tyneside Council, said: “We were delighted to welcome the Coroner’s Office into a new modern purpose-built space within South Shields Town Hall. It provides offices for the Coroner’s administrative team as well as a Coroner’s Court and has a dedicated public entrance for those who need to visit the office. “The office of the Coroner is a vital function dealing with very sensitive matters and helping bereaved families through what is undoubtedly an extremely difficult time following the loss of a loved one. “This new accommodation supports the Coroner’s Office in the role it undertakes, providing an environment that is sympathetic to the needs of the grieving families who are going through the distressing process of an inquest and supporting the Office to provide the best possible service to residents in their time of need.”  

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