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Assael in High Court fees fight

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Assael Architecture has launched a High Court action in a desperate bid to force a client to pay it more than £200,000 in unsettled fees.

The office has been fighting a two-year battle to compel Ridgewood Investments of Northamptonshire to pay for work undertaken on a failed £35 million scheme for two buildings - one a 27-storey tower - for the Albert Embankment in London's Lambeth.

The dispute arose over fee payments on the 2003 project, to be sited on top of an existing Texaco petrol station. According to a writ issued at London's High Court and made publicly available this week, Assael originally sought adjudication to settle the row.

However, when the adjudicator ruled on 21 May this year that Ridgewood should pay the practice £200,486.64, the developer refused. Despite a series of arguments and legal threats, Assael failed to make the client hand over the cash.

As a result the practice's bosses - understood to be led by director Chris Gaylord - decided to take on the services of Leeds-based corporate lawyer Hammonds, which instigated the High Court action.

The project failed to make it to the development control committee when Lambeth planners indicated in August last year that they were minded to refuse.

If the project - also opposed by Westminster council and Ken Livingstone's planning department - had been given the go-ahead, it would have included extensive mixed-use development with both retail and office elements. It would also have been the first pilot to make use of planning rule changes, which relaxed regulations governing the construction of buildings above petrol stations.

Other schemes planned to sit above petrol stations currently on the drawing board include a £15 million design by Lifschutz Davidson in Clerkenwell, which is also understood to have hit the buffers.

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