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Whitby Bird sued over pool

Wife of Britain's 53rd richest man takes legal action against consultant over installation of swimming pool at £5 million home

THE WIFE of one of Britain's wealthiest men is suing consultant Whitby Bird after accusing the firm of botching the installation of a swimming pool and gym complex at their £5 million luxury home.

Linda Rowland lives at Havilland Hall in Guernsey with her husband, financial entrepreneur David Rowland, whose £660 million fortune put him at number 53 in this year's Sunday Times rich list.

The son of a scrap metal dealer, Mr Rowland made his first million when he was 23, earning him the nickname 'Spotty' for being so young.

By contrast, Whitby Bird, which is headed by former Institution of Civil Engineers president Mark Whitby, had a turnover of £15 million for the year to September 2002, the latest set of accounts filed at Companies House. Pre-tax profit stood at just £60,000 down from the previous year's £1.1 million.

The writ, which has been issued at the Technology & Construction Court in London, is claiming for damages for breach of contract and negligence and follows work for the development of a 'swimming pool, spa and gymnasium complex in the grounds of the premises for the use of the claimant and her husband and their family, friends and guests' Work at the site in St Andrew began in January 2001 but Mrs Rowland claims roof beams, ventilation systems and pool and spa filtration have all since had to be repaired at a cost of over £84,000.

The writ also states that the stainless steel catenary truss over the swimming pool will have to be replaced this autumn at an estimated cost of £200,000.

Mrs Rowland alleges the steel is 'susceptible to a process or condition called stress corrosion cracking' which has already begun in the catenary structure.

The writ adds: 'In these circumstances there is a risk of the ultimate failure of the catenary structure, which in turn would lead to the collapse of the glass rooflight.

'This places users of the pool at risk from serious personal injury and even, in an extreme example, death.'

Whitby Bird declined to comment.