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Dispute settlement on the rise

An interim report focusing on Mediation In Construction Disputes shows an increased use of the tool. This research is being conducted by King's College, London, with the support of the Technology and Construction Court (TCC). An initial analysis of the responses shows that 32 per cent of those disputes that settled were as a result of mediation. This is more than had been anticipated by the report's authors. Of the remaining 68 per cent, 61 per cent settled by conventional negotiation while 7 per cent settled as a result of some other process. The nature of the cases dealt with has shifted in he last 10 years. A noticeable proportion of the cases related to defects (28 per cent), design issues (15 per cent) and professional negligence (15 per cent). A survey dealing will similar categories of disputes arising from the TCC 10 years ago revealed payment, variations, delay and site conditions to be the main issues. Rob Driscoll, solicitor and commercial and legal adviser for the HVCA said: 'We would agree that the use of mediation in the construction industry is both rising and undervalued. 'If you define mediation as simply settlement aided by the intervention of a third party facilitator in the negotiation process, the 32 per cent figure may even be higher. 'It is not surprising that 61 per cent settle through negotiation because the industry often cannot afford to fund litigation long term. 'Anecdotally, we would have to agree that defects are a large source of disputes in the industry. 'However, the specialist sectors of the industry still experience most of their disputes in relation to the traditional areas highlighted under the last survey, i.e. payment, variations and delay.' Mr Driscoll added that legislative reform under the current review of the Construction Act, i.e. to include not only those contracts evidenced in writing, together with the increased acceptance by the industry of mediation as a viable means of dispute resolution, may see a further reduction in the number of construction related disputes handled by the TCC.