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Mystery cracks add to Bath Spa's woes

Relations with council client at an all-time low as Mowlem puzzles over floor fault

CONTRACTORS working on the turbulent Bath Spa scheme are mystified by scores of cracks which keep opening and closing.

Mowlem workers have examined the fractures found throughout the project and discovered that the width of the defects is constantly fluctuating.

Cracks have been found underneath a number of tiles on the first floor main pool, the second floor steam room and the flagship rooftop spa facility.Mowlem admits it does not know what is causing the changes.

Mowlem project director Mike Ward said: 'The waterproofing of the floors relies on a membrane chosen by the architect and client.The problem is that the membrane sits on a heated floor screed and needs elasticity to cope with movement in the screed. But the membrane and screed have cracked in many places.These cracks are expanding and shrinking and we won't speculate as to why they are because we simply don't know.The design team will have to investigate.We will be asking for an initial report from them by tomorrow [Friday].'

Relations between Mowlem and the client, Bath & Northeast Somerset Council, have reached an all-time low.

Mowlem has blasted the council for claiming it had not received detailed proposals of the contractor's recent pledge to complete the job in six months and therefore could not take it up on the offer.Mowlem said it made the offer in November 2004 and provided architect Grimshaw with the data - details which Mowlem claims Grimshaw lost.

Lawyers are being used to communicate between all parties and there are concerns the debate could reach the courtroom.When asked about potential legal action, Mr Ward said: 'It's not if we win any court case that could arise, but when we win.'

A war of words has also erupted between Bath MP Don Foster and construction minister Nigel Griffiths.Mr Griffiths called the council incompetent for allowing the scheme to run more than three years overdue and championed Mowlem's offer to complete the project within six months of being given carte blanche. Mr Foster responded by slamming the minister's 'bull in a china shop approach, which may well have caused irreparable damage and set the project back further still'