Four contractors in court battle after ‘major’ spill delays occupation of Bankside development

A “major” oil spill that delayed the occupation of a landmark London office building by more than five months has sparked a £10m High Court claim against four construction firms including Lend Lease and Carillion.

Land Securities and the City of London, the main lessee and freehold owner of Southwark’s Bankside 2 office building respectively, are claiming damages of £10,291,554 plus interest for the costs of the internal spill, which occurred during the fit-out of the building on 3 May 2008.

According to a claim document filed at London’s Technology and Construction Court, the diesel oil spill - from a tank on the building’s ninth floor - occurred because of a breach of contract by main contractor Bovis (now Lend Lease) and the negligence of three other firms: repair and maintenance contractor and Carillion subsidiary AMBS, fit-out contractor Overbury and electrical services engineer Gratte Brothers.

The document alleges that the oil leaked from the tank onto the floor and down the side of the glass atrium at the centre of the building, resulting in a £7,393,842 repair and clean-up bill and £2,897,712 worth of lost rent because of a 153-day delay in the occupation of Bankside 2 by tenant Royal Bank of Scotland.

The building - part of the Land Securities-developed Bankside 123 development located behind Tate Modern on the South Bank - shares a basement with Bankside 3, which contains a number of linked diesel storage tanks.

According to the claim, the diesel tank on Bankside 2’s ninth floor was a smaller tank fuelling the building’s emergency back-up generator and linked with the basement tanks via a system including a “combined fill and dump line”.

The document said that Gratte’s actions in switching off part of the power supply in order to upgrade the emergency back-up generator had affected a level sensor within the ninth floor tank that had caused an initial and far smaller oil spill on 29 April 2008, which was controlled by a leak detector.

It alleged that the major spill on 3 May occurred when a battery back-up for the system powering the leak detector then ran flat.

No defence has yet been filed and the four defendants declined to comment.