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Three Rivers awarded £700,000 in damages for William Penn debacle

 Published on: 10th November 2013   |   By: The Newsdesk   |   Category:

william penn

The redevelopment of the William Penn Leisure Centre, cost an extra £4.5m to complete

 Three Rivers District Council (TRDC) received just £700,000 in damages for botched work on the William Penn Leisure Centre, My News can reveal for the first time. For nine months TRDC rejected Freedom of Information requests to reveal the terms of a mediation agreement it resolved in January, but the Information Commissioner last month ruled that the council had to disclose details of the deal. Documents reveal that TRDC received just £700,000 in damages from architects WS Atkins, despite the firm causing work on the leisure centre to go £4.5m over budget and more than two years over its deadline. Initially the redevelopment to build two new pools, an exercise centre and a gym at the centre was to cost Three Rivers’ taxpayers £4.6m. That figure ballooned to £9.1m, while disputes and delays saw the facilities open in May 2010 when they were first expected to be available by March 2008. After sacking developers Gee Construction Ltd and suing architects W S Atkins, a mediation agreement was finalised between TRDC and the latter in January. High Court documents show that W S Atkins also forked out £1m in damages to Gee Ltd, while the mediation agreement stated that “parties accept that the fact there was a termination should not be held against Gee Construction Ltd”. Last month, the Information Commissioner’s Office ruled that details in the agreement were not exempt from Freedom of Information requests on October 9, after which TRDC published the mediation agreement. At a TRDC meeting last month Rickmansworth county councillor and Moor Park & Eastbury district councillor Ralph Sangster tabled a motion for TRDC to issue an apology to residents for refusing Freedom of Information requests on the agreement. This motion was outvoted, but Cllr Sangster still believes an apology should be provided. He told My News: “We are delighted to have struck a blow for free access to information. The residents of Three Rivers should have been informed of the terms of the William Penn Mediation Agreement when it was first settled. Surely the Leader of the Council and her entire Liberal Democrat Group must explain why they were so ready to accept the Chief Executive’s reasons for withholding that information. TRDC leader Ann Shaw said that disclosure of the agreement would have been a “senseless risk”. She said: “The sort of apology Cllr Sangster is seeking is misguided.  If we had blatantly publicised the terms of the agreement, as the Conservatives seem to think we should and contrary to the non-disclosure requirement, it could have brought about a claim for repayment of the money awarded and possibly more, for damage to reputation. She added: “We have been as open as anyone sensibly could be.  We could have appealed the Information Commissioner’s decision, but there is nothing to hide and unless we are forced into appealing by Gee or Atkins, we will not be doing so.  We have naturally informed Gee and Atkins of the Information Commissioner’s ruling.” What do you make of the mediation agreement? Email adam@mynewsmag.co.uk      

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