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London borough High Court claim against PFI contractor over alleged fire safety failings ends in £19m settlement

Camden Council has received £19m in settlement of a High Court claim against a contractor who previously had responsibility for a council housing estate under a private finance initiative agreement (PFI) with the local authority.

The settlement comes after the London borough submitted a £130m claim in 2019 over costs it incurred after it had to evacuate the Chalcots Estate over fire safety failings.

The claim was submitted against the consortium Partners for Improvement in Camden (PFIC) – currently in liquidation – and Rydon Construction Ltd., Rydon Maintenance Ltd., Faithful + Gould Ltd. and United Living South Limited.

It was seeking to recover costs the local authority said it incurred as a result of having to address multiple fire safety failings found in post-Grenfell fire assessments at the estate and the related evacuation of its residents in June 2017.

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The London borough began proceedings in the High Court over the evacuation and the events leading to the evacuation to hold the relevant parties responsible for the costs. As part of this process, a mediation took place.

A council announcement stated that there were differing opinions about responsibility under the PFI arrangement, but the parties had agreed to end the litigation as it carried costs and risks for all involved.

"This litigation will end without any admission of liability on the side of any of the parties," it added.

The council said the settlement was reached as there was a fear that the parties would not have sufficient funds to satisfy any judgment.

Cllr Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council, said: "It has been five years since we had to evacuate people from their homes in the Chalcots. I know how immensely difficult that was for residents. Their resilience then and now, and their patience and participation in the process ever since, has been remarkable.

"I made a commitment to residents after the evacuation that we would work to make their homes safe as quickly as we could, that we would hold an independent review to understand and learn from what went wrong, and that we would begin legal proceedings against the contractors involved in the Chalcots PFI refurbishment in 2006-2009."

She added: "I am pleased that I can now share with you that a settlement has been agreed and while no liability has been admitted the council has received £19million from the contractors. Our approach from day one has been to put residents and their safety first, and recoup our costs later."

Following the conclusion of the proceedings, the council will conduct the second part of an independent review, which will look at the refurbishment of the buildings and their subsequent management.

Rydon Construction Ltd., Rydon Maintenance Ltd., Faithful + Gould Ltd. and United Living South Limited have been approached for a comment.

Adam Carey

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