Top public school wins damages for project delays

Posted: 14th August 2012

HouseBritain's top Catholic public school, Ampleforth College, has succeeded in an epic court struggle after a £5 million project to upgrade its boarding accommodation was struck by costly delays.

The Trustees of the Ampleforth Abbey Trust claimed they were losing up to £50,000-a-week as the project, which should have been finished in late 2004, dragged on into March the following year.

They sought £750,000 liquidated damages from the builders, who blamed various factors for the delays - including ‘exceptionally inclement weather’, the Technology and Construction Court heard.

That dispute was eventually settled on terms that the builders received £4,951,365 for their work on the project - more than £800,000 less than they had claimed - but the college also gave up its claim for a £750,000 deduction from that bill.

However, the trustees then turned their attention to project managers who oversaw the construction work and who, the trustees claimed, had negligently failed to tie the builders down to a formal contract.

Instead, the project had been carried out under a series of 'letters of intent' and a building contract was not executed until long after construction work was complete.

Ruling on the case, Judge Andrew Keyser QC found that, had the project managers focused on the issue and applied pressure as they should have done, the builders would probably have signed a formal contract substantially earlier than they did.

Awarding the trustees £226,667 damages, the judge said that, had a formal contract been signed at an early stage, there would have been a 'material benefit' to the trustees and they would have been entitled to compensation from the builders for the delay in completion.

A claim by the project managers for £37,167 in additional fees was also upheld by the judge and that sum will have to be set against the award to the trustees.