Wembley remained incomplete, third-party rights grew in popularity and we awoke to the importance of sustainability last year. So what will 2007 hold?
Succumbing to the temptations of the season, here are my top 10 reflections on 2006, and my top 10 predictions for 2007 (without limitation and in no particular order – it is a legal column, after all).
First, looking back on 2006:
• It sank in that we were going to be very busy indeed for the next few years as the commercial and residential markets boomed, the impacts of 2012 became apparent – and we started getting up for a really early train.
• We started office sweepstakes on the out-turn cost of the Olympics and the completion date for Wembley Stadium.
• Taking advantage of the buoyant market, consultants and contractors renewed their struggle to obtain net contribution clauses and caps on their liability in all documents, whatever happens and however much goes wrong …
• Third-party rights became the norm on big developments in London, thereby saving us all the tedious job of endlessly engrossing the same pieces of paper in triplicate in favour of hundred of beneficiaries.
• It dawned on even the die-hards that we urgently need to save the planet but we still went to the Seychelles for holidays and arrived at meetings in taxis.
• The buoyant market resulted in a significant decline in the workload of the Technology and Construction Court. Judges started to offer their services as mediators.
• We saw fewer adjudications but continued to be appalled at the games played by the industry with adjudication and the poor decisions reached by some adjudicators.
• We saw a few subcontractor insolvencies. There were not so many that they formed a pattern, but enough for us to dust down the textbooks on insolvency.
• The problems with two-stage tendering came dramatically to the fore on a number of projects after some contractors used the period between their selection and the fixing of the price to inflate the final contract sum. This is done by asking subcontractors to price for “allowances” for main contractors to claim for “attendances” and ever more complicated discounting systems.
• Contractors woke up to the administrative burden imposed by the NEC “compensation event” procedures.
It dawned that we urgently need to save the planet but we still went to the Seychelles for holidays and arrived at meetings in taxis
And predictions for 2007:
• It all starts to feel a bit exhausting as the industry cuts corners and extends working hours from 7am to 7pm. And for the oldies among us, it feels like 1988 all over again.
• The use of management forms of procurement increases exponentially as the requirement for the shortest possible programme eclipses cost.
• The use of third-party rights, like collateral warranties before them, spreads out from the City market to become the norm on large development projects throughout the country.
• We start to engage with best practice on sustainability by commissioning environment-friendly designs and eliminating waste, to avoid green taxes.
• We double the number we first thought of and place a new bet on the out-turn cost of the Olympics – but Wembley is completed.
• The doom-mongers start predicting a property crash.
• We finally start to grapple with some of the issues arising from mixed-use as development projects layer retail, office, private residential, affordable and other uses.
• Kate Barker’s report is kicked into touch because of perceived threats to the green belt, thereby postponing sensible reforms of the planning system.
• We realise London is gridlocked, the tubes are in chaos and take to our feet.
• I learn a few IT skills.
Ann Minogue is a partner in Linklaters