Forefront Estates, owner of the Mechanics’ Institution, has submitted a defence against legal action from Swindon Borough Council who are seeking to recover funds spent (£393,271.16, plus interest due). These legal proceedings are in relation to the work to the North end theatre roof undertaken by the Council under the Dangerous Works provisions in the Building Act 1984. These works and the subsequent legal proceedings do not concern the Urgent Works also undertaken by the Council under Section 54 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.
The case has been set for 4 days from the 16th January 2012 at the Technology and Construction Court of the High Court.
Forefront Estates are disputing, among other issues, that the Council did not give the owner the opportunity to execute these works themselves and they dismiss that the works undertaken by the Council were necessary and therefore the costs reasonably incurred.
The Trust supports the Council recovering funds from the owner however we believe that the Council should have intervened earlier, at any point since the original Urgent Works Survey in 2002. This would have meant that the state of the building would have been significantly better than it was found recently and would have cost much less money. The owner is responsible for the repair, safety and security of the building but it is the Council’s duty to ensure that the owner complies. In both cases the Trust believes fault has occurred over a long period of time.