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Questions over £1.3m spent in Clissold dispute

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The London Borough of Hackney has spent a massive £1.3 million so far in its legal battles over Hodder Associates' Clissold Leisure Centre, it has emerged.

The huge figure was revealed in a Freedom of Information bid by the AJ to see details of the lawyers' bills racked up over the last three years.

The £1.3 million covers legal battles undertaken by the council against Hodder, the contractor Gleeson and engineer WhitbyBird.

The total should cover almost all the legal costs, as it is understood that the arbitration undertaken by the different parties over the controversial centre has almost come to an end.

The breakdown will also include both the council's bid to regain some of the value of the cost and budget overruns during the original construction programme and the legal battle over Clissold's long-term closure due to 'defects'.

But it is understood that the settlement largely favours Hodder and WhitbyBird, so local taxpayers will inevitably question the value of the legal work.

It is also understood that Hackney dropped the legal team headed up by international practice Herbert Smith in the middle of the proceedings, and gave the job to in-house lawyers.

It is uncertain how much the council spent with Herbert Smith before the split, but one observer estimated that it would 'definitely be hundreds of thousands of pounds'.

Stephen Hodder of Hodder Associates said the hefty bill could have 'probably been avoided'.

He said: 'I only wish that Hackney council had discussed the fact that there were problems or had contacted me or the contractor in the usual way.

'If they had done this, they may not have had to spend this large amount of money.

'Sometimes it really felt like they were using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, ' he added.

However, a spokesman for Hackney council refused to be drawn. 'We are stuck in the middle of legal proceedings and can't make any statements at the moment, ' she said.

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