HTA Architects has been told that no contract existed between itself and the developers of the £250m Greenwich Millennium Village when it was sacked from the scheme in June 1999.
Last year HTA's solicitor Hammond Suddards Edge issued a writ claiming £900,000 in unpaid invoices and £3.2m in future design work from the Countryside Properties/Taylor Woodrow joint venture. But after a hearing of preliminary issues at the Construction and Technology Court last week, Judge Richard Seymour ruled that the written communication between HTA and the consortium in November 1997 did not amount to a contract.

Ben Derbyshire, a director at HTA, said: "This was a trial of preliminary issues clarifying the way forward. We are taking advice on the next steps."

It is thought HTA will now look to recover a reasonable sum for work done. It will not be able to pursue damages under breach of contract.

The architect's dismissal from the project in June 1999 came after HTA threatened to resign, claiming that its design had been diluted.

In a four-page letter dated 25 June last year, the developer listed four grounds for dismissal, covering production of information, design and practice organisation.

GMV project director Ross Hammond praised the decision. He said: "GMV has always considered that the termination of HTA's involvement was entirely justified and its claim has been refuted repeatedly both in principle and in substance."