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Hackney amasses £1.4m to fund Clissold crusade

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Design chiefs and lawyers have amassed a £1.4 million fighting fund to pinpoint problems and blame at north London's blighted Clissold Leisure Centre.

Hackney council revealed last week how much it would spend on its legal crusade, looking into problems at the centre designed by Hodder Associates. It has already clocked up £615,000 on fees for lawyers, architects and engineers to list damage.

So far the team has come up with about 40 problems - ranging from leaking roofs to cracking walls.

The Stoke Newington building was shut down in December after extra costs of about £10 million pushed the building bill to more than £30 million.

Hackney is using Brent-based architect Bickerdike Allen Partners, engineer Arup and its in-house legal team to scout out the faults and wage war in the courts if necessary.

'The litigation is over time delays and cost overruns on the centre, not defects, ' said a council spokeswoman. 'We are looking to go into mediation in June to arrive at a settlement without a lengthy court action.'

She said Bickerdike Allen Partners and Arup would carry out a 'full forensic investigation'. This would include hacking off plaster, removing tiles and powering up the building to simulate conditions in full use.

The team would give a point-by-point breakdown of what was wrong and how much repairs would cost. She said the report would also say how long the repair work would take and look at where fault lied in the construction team.

'This report is absolutely key because we will be much more clear on what's going on. There are no quick fixes and it will be a long journey before the centre is reopened, ' she added.

In the meantime, Hackney was keeping locals up to date with a newsletter, and last month gave 200 'extremely frustrated' people a tour of the Clissold centre. Some of the £1.4 million will pay for transporting local children to other sports centres until repairs are completed.

Hodder Associates' Stephen Hodder, who was unavailable for comment, earlier this year spoke of his 'dismay' at Hackney's handling of the problems with the centre (AJ 12.2.04). The architect said the first he heard of problems was when journalists contacted him.

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