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Developers to fight HTA £4m claim


The joint-venture company responsible for building the Greenwich Millennium Village vowed to mount a 'robust and comprehensive' defence this week after the architect it sacked in June 1999, HTA, lodged a writ in the High Court against it for £4 million. But it refused to confirm that it is threatening a counterclaim, as the architect alleges.

HTA Architects lodged the writ - officially a claim and particulars of claim - last Wednesday, naming Taylor Woodrow and Countryside Properties for unpaid invoices of £1.1 million and claiming damages of £3.1 million. HTA said it was due the cash for 'wrongful termination of contract', and managing director Bernard Hunt told the AJ this week that the 'squalid commercial dispute' had wide ramifications for architects. 'I am more concerned that this should not be tolerated in this industry - its behaviour is simply the air which is being breathed, and this is not the way the world ought to go around.'

But the joint-venture company hit back, saying that it would fight the claims. 'The board of Greenwich Millennium Village Limited has always considered that the termination of HTA's involvement was entirely justified, and the claim has already been refuted both in principle and in substance, ' it said. 'These proceedings will be robustly and comprehensively defended.'

The joint venture - Countryside and Taylor Woodrow Capital Developments in association with English Partnerships - dismissed the architect in a four-page letter in June 1999.

But Hunt claimed that the developers had done 'their damnedest to avoid entering a contract', refused to pay the agreed fees for winning the competition, and fired HTA when it protested.

'It's about bully-boy tactics and a primitive business culture, in which the strong treat contractual obligations to the weak as a troublesome irrelevance.'

The affair went to 13 hours of mediation, but HTA was offered 'zero'.

Now HTA is waiting for a court date in about nine months time. 'It's an incredible waste of everyone's time, ' said Hunt.

HTA estimates that profits from the development could amount to up to £120 million, and it has spent 'hundreds of thousands of pounds' on lawyers' bills to prove the exchange of letters between the parties represented a contract. The affair had been a 'setback', but developers including 'one of the biggest names in the development business' had offered support and commissions which, with its 'robust' financial position, had saved HTA from going under.

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