Blackpool Borough Council v Volkerfitzpatrick Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQueen's Bench Division (Technology and Construction Court)
JudgeStephen Davies
Judgment Date15 June 2020
Neutral Citation[2020] EWHC 1523 (TCC)
Docket NumberCase No: E50MA036

[2020] EWHC 1523 (TCC)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

BUSINESS AND PROPERTY COURTS IN MANCHESTER

TECHNOLOGY AND CONSTRUCTION COURT (QB)

Manchester Civil Justice Centre,

1 Bridge Street West, Manchester M60 9DJ

Draft judgment circulated 26 May 2020

Before:

HIS HONOUR JUDGE Stephen Davies

SITTING AS A JUDGE OF THE HIGH COURT

Case No: E50MA036

Between:
Blackpool Borough Council
Claimant
and
Volkerfitzpatrick Limited
Defendant

and

Range Roofing & Cladding Ltd
Third Party

and

Rps Planning & Development Ltd
Fourth Party

and

Caunton Engineering Ltd
Fifth Party

Martin Bowdery QC & Robert Clay (instructed by Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP, Birmingham B3) for the Claimant

Anneliese Day QC and Sanjay Patel (instructed by Fieldfisher LLP, London EC4) for the Defendant

Serena Cheng QC (instructed by Beale & Co Solicitors LLP, London EC4) for the Fourth Party (on 25 February 2020)

Simon Hale (instructed by Clyde & Co LLP, London EC3) for the Fifth Party

Hearing dates: 25, 26, 27, 28 February, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12 March, 1, 2 April 2020

APPROVED JUDGMENT

I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A paragraph 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.

Stephen Davies His Honour Judge

Sect.

Title

Paras.

A

Introduction and summary of decision

1 – 13

B

Location and construction of the tram depot

14 – 32

C

Summary of relevant events: (a) pre-2015; (b) 2015 onwards

33 – 94

D

Witnesses

95 – 117

E

Terms of the main contract

118 – 197

F

Contractual design life of the various components in the tram depot

198 – 242

G

Corrosion and its categorisation

243 – 273

H

Claim against the defendant in respect of the cold formed components

274 – 380

I

Claim over in respect of the cold formed components as against Caunton

381 – 385

J

Contribution claim by Caunton against RPS

386 – 397

K

Claim in respect of the roof steel components

398 – 430

L

Claim in respect of the wall cladding panels

431 – 543

M

Claim in respect of the roof overhang soffit panels

544 – 554

N

Claim in respect of the wave form cladding panels

555 – 559

O

Claim in respect of the tram doors, side panels and supports

560 – 586

P

Claim in respect of the other defects

587 – 665

Q

Additional costs

666 – 737

R

Glossary

N/A

A. Introduction and summary of decision

1

Trams have run along the promenade at Blackpool for over 130 years. In 2007 Blackpool Borough Council, the claimant, secured central government funding for a major upgrade to the tramway system, including the supply of a fleet of modern trams and the construction of a new tram depot at Starr Gate. The tram depot was designed and constructed to be a landmark building at the principal southern approach for those visiting Blackpool by car. It has a striking modern design, with a curved aluminium roof with deep cantilevered soffits, an aluminium wall looking west out to sea, long bands of 3-dimensionally curved “wave-formed” decorative blue cladding features along the south and east elevations and fully glazed double bi-folding tram doors to the north. The tram depot was procured by a design and build main contract made between the claimant and Volkerfitzpatrick Limited, the defendant, in 2009, completed in 2011 and brought into operation in 2012.

2

In these proceedings the claimant, as the owner of the tram depot, complains that significant parts of the tram depot as designed and constructed do not meet their intended design life of 50 years and nor are they suitable for the exposed coastal marine environment where the tram depot is located and where it suffers from regular exposure to the elements.

3

The complaints are set out in more detail in the Scott schedule attached to the Particulars of Claim. The claimant contends that substantial remedial works are required at a total cost said to be in excess of £6M.

4

The claims fall into 7 principal categories, namely:

a. The galvanised steel cold formed components connecting the wall and roof sections to the portal frame, namely the purlins, the cladding rails and the connecting brackets (items 1–3 of the Scott schedule).

b. The galvanised steel internal components of the roof, namely rails, clips and spacers (item 4 of the Scott schedule).

c. The wall cladding panels to the north, east and south elevations (items 5 and 6 of the Scott schedule).

d. The soffit panels to the underside of the roof overhangs on the north, east and part south elevations (item 7 of the Scott schedule).

e. The decorative wave form cladding panels affixed to the wall cladding panels to the east and part north and south elevations (item 8 of the Scott schedule).

f. The tram access doors, glazed side panels and supports and operating mechanisms in the north elevation (“the tram doors”) (items 9 and 10 of the Scott schedule).

g. Other general defects in and associated with the depot building (items 11 – 80 of the Scott schedule).

5

Against each item in the Scott schedule an amount is stated for the “estimated quantum”, without particulars being given as to what works are said to be required or how the amount was calculated. At the end of the Scott schedule there is added to the sub-total of the individual items (£5,765,736.45) claims for five additional items, again without particulars being given: (a) design of remedial scheme (£333,000); (b) procurement of remedial works (£100,000); (c) legal advice in connection with remedial works programme (£25,000); (d) project management time estimate for remedial works (£287,500); and (e) project management time to date dealing with defects (£187,500).

6

By its defence the defendant disputes that the contract required the individual elements of the tram depot in respect of which complaint is made to have a design life of 50 years, contending that the contractual design life is either 25 years or 20 years depending upon the element in question.

7

Save for some limited admissions the defendant disputes that the elements do not meet their specified design life or are otherwise unsuitable. It contends that such corrosion as has been experienced has been caused by the claimant's failure to maintain the tram depot appropriately, in particular to clean the exterior of the tram depot with sufficient frequency. It complains that the claimant has unreasonably refused to accept its offers to undertake remedial works in relation to some elements which it admits require attention. It disputes the remedial works proposed and the costs claimed, contending that the claimant is unreasonably seeking to obtain a full-scale replacement of the relevant elements when that is wholly unnecessary and when the costs claimed are wholly excessive.

8

The defendant brought additional proceedings against the third party (“Range”) as the specialist roofing and cladding subcontractor engaged to carry out design and construction works in relation to the roof and external cladding. Those proceedings related to the design and construction of the roof and wall cladding. Shortly before trial they were compromised.

9

The defendant also brought additional proceedings against the fourth party (“RPS”), which was the lead multi-disciplinary design consultant engaged by the defendant in relation to the main contract works. The claims made against RPS related to the design and specification of the structural and secondary steelwork, the roof steel components, wall cladding panels, cantilever roof soffit panels, wave form cladding panels, tram doors and other general defects. Those claims were compromised on the first day of trial, so that Ms Cheng QC only appeared on that day before withdrawing.

10

Finally, the defendant also brought additional proceedings against the fifth party, Caunton Engineering Limited (“Caunton”), which was the specialist steelwork subcontractor engaged by the defendant to carry out steelwork design and construction works. The claims made against Caunton relate to the cold formed components and four specified items in the Scott schedule. Those claims have not been compromised and remain for determination, as do the contribution proceedings brought by Caunton against RPS in respect of which, as part of its settlement with RPS, the defendant took over conduct on its behalf.

11

The case was listed at the first case management conference in February 2019 for a 4-week trial commencing 24 February 2020. The trial took place as scheduled. Fortunately, the oral evidence concluded before the restrictions due to the Covid-19 epidemic and subsequently I was able to hear 2 days of oral closing submissions remotely. In addition, I have received helpful written opening and closing submissions from all counsel (to each of whom I am very grateful). I have had regard to those submissions, which each made detailed reference to the oral evidence from the factual and the expert witnesses as well as to the voluminous documents in the trial bundles (conveniently provided both in paper and in electronic format) to which my attention has been drawn.

12

I have included a short glossary at the end of the judgment. Reference has been made in the evidence and in the submissions to a number of various British Standards (“BS”) and International Standards (“ISO”). After the first reference I refer to them simply by their number and date, so that BS EN ISO 9224:2012 is abbreviated to 9224:2012. Reference is also made to the thickness of very thin components in micrometres, correctly abbreviated to “μm”, but...

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    ...in the present case includes the concept of “ design life”, which was analysed in Blackpool Borough Council v Volkerfitzpatrick Ltd [2020] EWHC 1523 (TCC) §§ 153 to 157. The court there identified (by reference to a British Standard addressing structural service life planning) that a desig......
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    ...may be treated as authentic. Stephen Davies His Honour Judge 1 I handed down my principal judgment on 15 June 2020 (neutral citation [2020] EWHC 1523 (TCC)) and now deal with costs following a further hearing on 14 July 2 I summarised what the case was about and what the outcome of my judg......

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