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Bath moves to recoup spa cash

Bath and North East Somerset Council has said it will recoup the £1 million legal costs incurred in Grimshaw's muchdelayed Bath Spa project.

The council intends to reclaim the cash through court action against the scheme's other parties. These will almost certainly include architect Grimshaw and contractor Mowlem.

Councillor Nicole O'Flaherty, who is responsible for the spa, said: 'We're hoping to recoup these costs from the different parties as much as we can.' Late last week the council admitted that it had racked up £1,022,618 of legal expenses over the course of the seven-year debacle. This amounts to around £150,000 a year since 1998, when the project began. The total sum includes the cost of both external lawyers and the council's in-house legal team.

The council's hand was forced by an external appeal using the Freedom of Information Act.

A spokesperson for the local authority claimed the costs 'were not excessive percentage-wise' if compared with the purchase of a house by a private buyer.

O'Flaherty also played down the significance of the £1 million sum. She said: 'I think it wasn't that clean cut. We have to realise that these legal costs include drawing up the initial contracts with the architect and contractor, as well as any legal disputes in the courts.

'This is all totalled up from the word go. We needed to get someone on board in the first place to do the architectural work. But, saying that, we are planning to pursue all possibilities regarding getting this money back, and talks are still ongoing.' The Bath Spa project has been constantly beset by difficulties, including leaking floors and peeling paint - problems that have led to a legal dispute between the council, Grimshaw and Mowlem.

Lawyers employed by the local authority to advise on the spa project during the period of its construction include representatives of international law firm Taylor Wessing, which was appointed earlier this year to coordinate its legal efforts regarding the dispute, and Bristol-based firm Veale Wasbrough, which advised the council during its earlier legal wrangles with Mowlem.

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