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Camden News - by DAN CARRIER
Published: 22 October 2009
Town Hall pay out millions to sacked builders

Bad specifications to blame, say tenants

FORCING builders to down tools on a Highgate housing estate and leave a job half done has left Camden Council facing a multi-million pound bill.
The Town Hall told building firm Makers to leave the Whittington estate, Highgate Newtown, in the summer of 2007 after concerns over the quality of the work and the time it was taking.
But the New Journal has learned just a week before the council were due to face Makers in the High Court to thrash out who was to blame for the “bodge job”, the Town Hall have settled the case – handing over £1.75million, and facing further bills of an estimated £1m in legal fees.
The Town Hall’s housing department has also had to finish off the project with new builders – furthering adding to the final bill, likely to be nearly £10m in total.
A source close to Makers, who did not want to be identified, confirmed the settlement figure. They said: “Camden have settled because they knew they were wrong to blame Makers for mistakes made on the job and that they’d lose in court.”
The insider added: “This litigation was started by Camden. Makers were happy to do the job and finish it to a high standard. Now they have completely abandoned their case, and they have paid £1.75m for us to go away.”
The original job was to renovate the 15 yellow concrete 1970s blocks bordering Highgate Cemetery – considered to be iconic examples of social housing design. Makers won a £4.3m contract in 2006. Part of the job was to take up every paving stone on the estate, lay a waterproof lining and then re-lay them. The job was so badly done – allegedly because the original specification the builders were asked to work from was flawed – that it had to be re-laid six times. The final bill for the work has reached £6.8m.
Balconies were also due to be waterproofed, timber screens replaced and general repairs done, including painting the estate. But very quickly it became apparent to residents and tenants that things were not going smoothly, and a campaign by their association accused Camden of bungling the original specification for the job.
Chairman Fabian Watkinson, an architect, had studied the specification given to Makers and had warned repeatedly that the job was going wrong. But his warnings fell on deaf ears – and instead the council sacked the builders.
Whittington Estate Residents Association committee member Kate Spillane said: “We have said all along that the whole project was mismanaged by Camden. It was not Makers fault.”
Now most of the 81 leaseholders on the estate plan to challenge Camden over the final bills they will have to pay.
In July 2007 – when the job was supposed to have been completed – Camden terminated Makers’ contract with the job far from finished and scaffolding still up.
A council spokeswoman refused to confirm or deny the cash value of the settlement, citing ongoing legal issues. She added: “Makers left the site on July 27 2007. Camden Council terminated their contract. The council acted because it considered that the people of Camden were not being given the high quality service they deserve.
“Camden Council is currently in negotiations with Makers to reach a settlement.”
Barrister Julian Critchlow, who represents Makers, confirmed the settlement figure and said: “Makers are pleased the matter is now resolved and can now move on.”

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