A YORK building firm has been awarded the construction contract for the £8 million development of the city’s art gallery.

Simpson, based in Dunnington, won the tender after being selected from a number of firms across the country which had expressed an interest in the project.

The gallery’s development team, Aecon Quantitative Surveyors and project managers, Appleyard and Trew, agreed that Simpson possessed the right experience in heritage development and expertise, at the most competitive price.

Mike Woodward, chief operating officer, said: “We are very pleased that a local firm has got the contract.

“The European Union places a strict procedure for all public sector tenders which are valued above a certain financial threshold. This means businesses from all over Europe can see these tenders and are invited to apply, so we are delighted that a York company came out on top.”

York Art Gallery, in Exhibition Square, closed in December 2012 for the development, which is expected to reach its completion in spring 2015.

Councillor Sonja Crisp, City of York Council’s cabinet member for leisure, culture and tourism, said: “It’s so exciting to see building work begin at the gallery to display York’s fabulous fine art collection in a more accessible environment.

“I am also delighted that a local building firm has beaten national competition to meet the tender’s strict criteria and so help secure local jobs.”

Simpson’s past experience working with Durham Cathedral, Bowes Museum and Bishopthorpe Palace proved key in them being chosen as the contractors.

Ron Gatenby, chairman of Simpson, said: “We are looking forward to working with the York Museums and Galleries Trust and their design and management team over the coming months to deliver this prestigious project in York, providing an excellent opportunity for our experienced construction and fit-out teams to demonstrate their ability and skills.”

Building work has now started on the £8 million development at the gallery, with work set to create more than 60 per cent extra exhibition space and establish a national centre for ceramic art.

The ground floor will feature a suite of three galleries with extra learning space and a new artists’ garden, which will link to the Museum Gardens.

A newly-built first-floor south gallery and a new gallery in the original Victorian roof space will become the centre for ceramic art.