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Offices near end three years late

Completion in sight for troubled Alfred McAlpine office scheme after £6 million write-down and failed High Court action

AN OFFICE scheme in Surrey on which Alfred McAlpine has been forced to write down £6 million is expected to be completed this summer - three years late.

The project in Guildford, known as Onslow House, was due to finish in August 2002 and be occupied by insurance group Standard Life.

Construction News understands it is one of two construction contracts for which Alfred McAlpine was forced to announce a £14.5 million exceptional charge in a trading statement last December.

At its annual results last week the firm declined to name the two jobs but the other is believed to be the A13 road project in east London.

Last month Alfred McAlpine lost a £6 million High Court action against Onslow House developer Tilebox, in which it argued that weekly damages claims of £45,000 were an unrealistic measure of the developer's losses.

The scheme has been delayed because of problems with the cladding. Practical completion is not due until May or June.

McAlpine claimed a provision in its contract which Tilebox said was for liquidated damages was in fact a penalty clause and therefore invalid. In December the firm launched action in the High Court for a declaration that the clause was an unenforceable penalty.

But Mr Justice Jackson dismissed the claim.An Alfred McAlpine spokesman said: 'We are working things through with the client.'

Problems at the Guildford contract and the A13 helped drag Alfred McAlpine's pre-tax profits down to just £3 million from £30 million last time.

Originally a Highways Agency scheme, the A13 job was taken over by Transport for London. One source said: 'The job overran because TfL decided to change the designs.As a client, TfL were like the Highways Agency 20 years ago. Everybody shared the pain on that one.'

Running from the City of London to Tilbury Docks in Essex, the road was built by a team featuring Alfred McAlpine, Amec, Spanish firm Dragados and US outfit Brown & Root.