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Unicoin Homes sues Thames Water Utilities for £225,000 in dispute over sewage pipe connection fees Builder in water wrangle

A HOUSE builder is suing a water company for£225,000 over disputed drainage connection fees.

North London-based Unicoin Homes claims Thames Water Utilities demanded too much cash for sewage pipe connection and then completed the job 12 months late.

In a writ lodged at the High Court, Unicoin claims Thames agreed to build a pipeline connecting a main sewer to a Unicoin development at Bushey, Hertfordshire by Christmas 1996. Unicoin had already handed over £12,000 of the £120,000 construction costs of the pipeline in June 1996.

Thames missed the December deadline before writing to Unicoin demanding a new total of £300,100 towards the cost of build-ing the sewer in July 1997. The sum was paid 'under protest'.

Unicoin is suing Thames for £224,942 - the money it claims it overpaid plus the £32,842 cost of providing temporary sewer facilities after Thames missed the deadline.

Jeremy Grose, solicitor for Unicoin, said: 'Unicoin considers that it is justified in taking action because of perceived failure by Thames Water Utilities to comply with the procedure laid down by the Water Industry Act 1991 resulting in a breach of their statutory duty.'

But Thames Water spokeswoman Jane Frapman said: 'We have complied with the statutory obligations and we will be defending the writ.'

Under the Water Industry Act 1991, a utility firm is entitled to impose conditions on a developer, but must provide the sewer within a specified time limit.

The House Builders Federation said the number of disputes was growing as utility companies increasingly charged 'more than reasonable' fees for connecting developments to drains.

Technical and planning director David Coates said: 'Developers have to acquiesce to their demands to get the property sold.'