£7m claim over leaking Dartington 'eco-school'

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Media captionA £7m claim has been launched against two firms involved in the design and building of an "eco-school" that closed after it developed leaks

A £7m claim has been launched against two firms involved in the design and building of an "eco-school" that developed leaks.

Devon County Council is demanding the money from architects White Design and main contractors Interserve over Dartington Primary School.

The claim is for the cost of repairs and relocating to temporary buildings.

White Design and Interserve confirmed legal action was under way but declined to comment further.

Image caption All the classrooms at the former school buildings have been emptied
Image caption Children will be taught from the start of the winter term in a number of temporary buildings

The authority said in a statement: "We've issued letters of intent to the architects and contractors amounting to over £7m.

"That covers the cost of the construction work and the cost of temporarily relocating the school, including the temporary classrooms."

The move has been prompted by "considerable problems" with leaks at the 310-pupil "zero-carbon" school which opened in February 2010.

'Grateful' for support

A report commissioned by the council in 2013 said the building started letting in water shortly after it was finished, and that "significant" repairs were needed.

The technical specialist's report said the major cause of the leaks was "likely to be the result of the scheme design".

The report also highlighted "complexities within the rainwater harvesting system" and "concern with the specified use of materials".

The council said it had worked "very closely" with the school and parents and was "very grateful for the continuing support of the parents, staff, governors and children".

The letters of intent to take action on the claim were "part of a legal process" that it said it could not comment on further.

'Rainwater running down walls'

The £7m "flagship new eco-school" was intended to replace "dilapidated flood-prone" former buildings.

Classes were held in four clusters of pod-like timber-clad buildings, with electricity and hot water from solar panels.

But rainwater was reported to be running down the walls after apparent faults in the structure.

Ordering the school had been a "bold decision" by the county council, said district councillor Jacqi Hodgson.

"It's unfortunate that it had had so many problems and now it has come to this, it is really sad."

How much will remain of the school's green credentials is unclear.

Parent Chris Mockridge, 38, said: "I think this might put people off. If they see this they might think environmental building doesn't work and in my heart I really hope it does.

"I wanted this to work and I still hope it does."

White Design has previously denied any liability.

Founder Craig White said the claim was with the firm's insurers, adding: "There is a legal process and we cannot compromise that."

Rhys Jones of Interserve said: "This is currently the subject of legal action so it would be inappropriate to comment further."

The council said it expected repairs to be finished by spring 2016.

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