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Monks settle for £350k over Whitfield 'nightmare'

An order of Benedictine monks has won a sixfigure payout from the masterplanner of Paternoster Square following complaints about a 'nightmare of a project' at their monastery.

In an out-of-court settlement, Sir William Whitfield and partner Andrew Lockwood agreed to pay £350,000 now with an additional payment yet to be determined to trustees of Ealing Abbey in west London after their practice, Whitfield Partners, worked on an extension at the abbey, including a sacristy and extension, in the late '90s.

The monks complained of a litany of problems including cracked oak panelling, damp problems and a faulty heating system.

They reluctantly took action because of ongoing problems, contractual delays and outstanding work, said Paul Walton, a partner at the abbey's law firm, Hill Dickinson He said: 'This has been a long and complex case due to the extent of negligence on behalf of Whitfield Partners.'

Andrew Lockwood, who set up a new practice - Whitfield Lockwood Architects - with Sir William following the closure of Whitfield Partners at the start of the year, said: 'It was a nightmare of a job because of the way the whole project was run and structured.'

Lockwood added that the partner working on the scheme, which was completed about five years ago, had since died.

'This was the most protracted project I have ever been involved with, hit by delay after delay about whether there were problems or not, ' he said. 'It makes me wonder why I'm an architect. It's like being God. You create everything and rest on the seventh day, but are still liable.

'Despite huge teams of consultants it's the architect who has liability.'

Lockwood claimed that Whitfield Partners closed because 82-year-old Sir William was preparing for retirement and another partner, David Walsh, had suffered a stroke.

Ealing Abbey, a Benedictine monastery for 20 monks in London suburbia, was founded in 1897. Architect Felix Walters worked on the Neo-Gothic building, described in Nikolaus Pevsner's The Buildings of England as: 'Remarkable for both its medieval scale and for the length of building time.'

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