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LONDON OFFICE IN £1M LEGAL ROW

A massive High Court battle, worth over £1 million, has broken out between London-based practice Stock Woolstencroft and a prominent social housing association.

The architect is locked in a bitter dispute with the Stadium Housing Association (SHA), the owners of a site for which it was commissioned to draw up residential plans in 2003.

The housing company has accused the office of negligence when measuring a site it had planned to redevelop as social and affordable housing, according to a High Court writ seen by the AJ.

Stock Woolstencroft has been barred from commenting on the case, apart from emphasising that the practice will rigorously defend itself.

It is understood that if the architect does lose, it could have a major impact on the way practices deal with liability on construction projects.

The row centres on a scheme that Stock Woolstencroft was asked to work up for a plot in Colindale, a northwest London suburb. The site is behind the Oriental City, a food and restaurant emporium, which is a local landmark.

The project - which formed just one planning application to the London Borough of Brent all the way back in May 2003 - involved the bringing together of a series of plots into a single project.

The plans submitted for the 1.46ha site involved demolishing a derelict industrial building and building 151 new units, with 126 carparking spaces.

But SHA is now demanding damages of more than £1 million from Stock Woolstencroft for 'breach of contract and negligence', according to the High Court claim.

The under-fire project has won the backing of London Mayor Ken Livingstone, however. In a 2003 planning report, his office offered support.

'On balance, this is a very good-quality urban housing scheme that responds to its context, is robust in its form and embraces contemporary design, ' the report said.

SHA - part of the Network Housing Group - is a major player in the local social housing scene. It owns 11,535 properties in the UK, including sheltered housing and temporary accommodation.

The development at Oriental City was due for completion this year.

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