The scene has been set for a £4.5 million court struggle after the historic facade of a landmark former Methodist chapel in Bradford was seriously damaged whilst it was being converted into luxury flats. Eastbrook Hall, once known as the Methodist cathedral of the north, was in a burnt out and derelict state before it was transformed into more than 70 apartments by developers, Aldersgate Estates Limited, between 2004 and 2008.
The development, in the heart of the ‘Little Germany’ conservation area, was opened by the Prince of Wales, however its completion coincided with the financial crisis and plummeting property values across the country. The building’s facade had to be retained as part of the project. However, during excavations at its base, stonework piers supporting it started to subside and cracking, distortion and damage was caused to masonry, lintels, beams and the facade’s central arch.
Aldersgate is suing the building contractor which carried out the conversion, Ham Construction Limited, and consulting engineers, Robinson Consulting Limited, for the cost of putting right the damage and in respect of alleged delays to the project which the developer claims resulted in a more than £3.4 million diminution in the property’s value in the midst of a falling market.
In a pre-trial hearing, Robinson Consulting applied to have issues relating to the scope of its duty of care and whether the alleged diminution in value claim was too remote decided as preliminary issues. However, dismissing the application, the court ruled that such a preliminary hearing was unlikely to save either time or costs or to encourage an early settlement of the dispute.
Both defendants deny any liability to pay compensation but Aldersgate puts the total value of its claim against them at just over £4.5 million. The trial of all issues of liability and quantum are now expected to go ahead at the Technology and Construction Court in early May 2013.