Contractor must pay for Gosport tower blocks’ cladding removal

By Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas

In what is being called a ‘landmark judgement’, the company which fitted dangerous cladding to four Gosport tower blocks has been ordered by the High Court to pay in the region of £8 million for the repairs needed to make the buildings safe.

After the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, an investigation found the external-wall insulation installed by Mulalley & Co. Limited between 2005 and 2008 to the four residential blocks near Gosport waterfront – Harbour Tower, Seaward Tower, Blake Court and Hammond Court – was a safety risk and had to be removed.

Owner Hyde Housing Association undertook the replacement of the cladding and provided a ‘waking watch’ between 2018 and 2020 during which time the towers were covered in sheeting that caused residents of the 440 flats a great deal of misery and distress.

Hyde bore the costs of the repairs but through its subsidiary Martlet Homes, it began legal proceedings against Mulalley & Co. Limited and won both the original case and now the appeal that had been brought by the Essex-based company.

‘endemic complacency within the construction sector’

The Technology and Construction Court – part of the High Court – considered the appeal and Judge Stephen Davies stated in his judgement that it seemed there, “was clearly a culture of endemic complacency within the construction sector about the true nature and extent of the fire safety risk associated with the use of combustible external cladding on high-rise residential tower blocks”.

Hyde are claiming £8 million to cover the costs of the repairs and ‘waking watch’ but the precise amount Mulalley & Co. will have to pay is to be determined after further work by experts who will have to evaluate the details of the judgement.

But the housing association will have to cover the remedial work on a fifth residential tower in Gosport – Garland Court also had the defective cladding – because the legal limitation period expired before initial proceedings were issued.

‘a landmark ruling’

Hyde’s Chief Executive Officer Andy Hulme hailed the judgement: “a landmark ruling for the industry that draws a line in the sand and establishes that the costs of defective work must be borne by those responsible for it.

“We have not re-charged leaseholders for the costs of any major fire safety works or ‘waking watch’ measures to date.

“Millions of people are still being affected by the cladding crisis. The costs of that crisis across the UK have been for too long borne by residents, the taxpayer and by the poorest people in society who are seeing affordable housing budgets cut to cover the costs of making homes safe.”

The latest accounts submitted to Companies House by Mulalley & Co. Limited show it had a turnover of more than £139 million in the 12 months to the end of March 2021 – despite the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns and other restrictions – and made an after-tax profit of £2.3 million.

These accounts also record that during the year dividend payments amounted to £8.5 million.

Photograph (top): sheeting starts to be taken down from Hammond Court in January 2020. RT