Legal wrangles begin on troubled north London theatre redevelopment.
The first legal claim over the £52m refurbishment of Sadler’s Wells Theatre has been issued in the High Court.

Electrical contractor Goodmarriot & Hursthouse has issued a writ for £2m against the north London theatre, claiming breach of contract for its work on the lottery-funded project.

A spokesman for the firm said: “The company has taken legal action to recover nearly £2m outstanding after undertaking more than £6m of specialist electrical installation work for New Sadler’s Wells Limited.”

A legal source said that claims from the other 16 mechanical and electrical contractors on the construction team could soon follow.

The claim, which was issued on 8 September, is for breach of contract over an “acceleration agreement” between the Nottingham trade contractor and Sadler’s Wells Theatre. This required Goodmarriot & Hursthouse to put more resources and manpower on the project, said the spokesman.

The company claims it can provide evidence to demonstrate that delays to the project, which also affected other contractors, were outside its control. The spokesman said that the firm can show that it “acted in good faith and at enormous additional cost to itself to ensure the theatre was able to open to the public on schedule in October 1998”.

Goodmarriot & Hursthouse claims that up to the practical completion of its work on 9 May, it had spent 87 weeks on site, whereas the original programme allowed for only 49 weeks.

The electrical contractor faced several problems. First, it was unable to begin work on site at the programme start date. A source close to the project said: “The building’s structure was insufficiently complete and the building was not watertight.” This resulted in the start date being pushed back three months to September 1997.

The source also claimed that the electrical design was insufficiently developed, which meant that Goodmarriot & Hursthouse needed to carry out more co-ordination work than originally planned.

Sadler’s Wells refused to comment.

The refurbishment was bedevilled with problems throughout its lifetime – after opening in the spring, it was forced to close in August to allow contractors to finish work. The National Audit Office criticised the project because it cost £14m more than forecast.