Readers discuss how changes to Part L could mean a rise in cowboy builders, whether housebuilders might regret welcoming the NewBuy scheme and why the best bidder doesn’t always win the job

Act of God?

As usual, Ann Minogue’s article on force majeure (23 March, page 49) was interesting and thought-provoking.

Ann notes that most standard form contracts do not properly define force majeure. May I remind her that SoPC4 (the PFI draftsman’s bible) does exactly that.

Its model definition covers war, terrorism, nuclear/biological contamination and sonic booms. SoPC4 can be criticised for many things, but it is at least clear on this point.

JCT 2011 includes a similar concept of “excepted risks”. These are generally uninsurable and so they are excluded from the contractor’s indemnity and insurance obligations. However, bizarrely, they do not give rise to an extension of time. Would an excepted risk be treated as force majeure under JCT? If that is the intention, why not say so expressly?

Force majeure is a creature of the French legal system. As Ann notes, it is not a concept recognised by English law. I agree with her that we should say what we mean, rather than use terminology that is (literally) incomprehensible in an English context.

John Hughes-D’Aeth, partner, Berwin Leighton Paisner

Cowboys invade

“Majority of builders say Part L changes ‘not feasible’” (27 March, - I agree that the changes will increase the use of cowboy builders, they are having a hay day at the moment with people wanting cheap prices. I have had two big jobs stolen due to cowboys undercutting, making a real bodge of the job and then taking far more money from the customer.

Fairclough, via

Mortgages in the morgue

Regarding your story “Prime minister’s flagship mortgage scheme stalls” (28 March, - another dead duck then!

You have to learn that when something is dead it usually remains so and that no amount of cosmetic surgery will cause it to breathe healthily - it just makes it look better laid out in the coffin.

Initiatives that are launched with a fanfare by politicians and prime ministers often don’t add up to a row of beans in the end.

It would be interesting to ask the chief executives of our volume housebuilders that “welcomed” this initiative whether after considering this scheme’s failure and the reversal they have suffered with the changes to the National Planning Policy Framework whether they should have held back on the political donations and paid out a higher dividend to shareholders - or is that cynical?

Alistair McHarg via

Bad marking

“Architects put off by cost of public procurement” (22 March, - having been involved from a client side I can tell you the analysis of tenders is not very well done. Sometimes the best tender doesn’t win because the firm doesn’t answer the questions in exactly the right format and hence gets eliminated.

Simon Smithy, via

Every little hurts

“Tesco unveils first London housing scheme” (28 March) - this development was bitterly opposed by local residents. The store is large and the housing is
largely small flats.

Highams Park is a small local centre with inadequate transport links. The three mini-markets in the area are almost certain to close as a result of this scheme.

John Moss, via