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Appeal judge blocks Embassy damages claim

The former owners of seafront eyesore Embassy Court have failed in a court bid to win damages from the current freeholders.

An appeal court judge rejected Portvale Holdings Limited's (PHL) claim for compensation from residents' company Bluestorm, which is planning a £5 million restoration.

PHL and its director David Marcel had accused Bluestorm of failing to carry out repairs on nine of the Brighton building's 72 flats it owns.

Judge Michael Kennedy, at Brighton County Court, rejected Mr Marcel's claim last March and criticised him for "behaviour more suited to a nursery playground".

At one stage Portvale wanted £1.8 million in damages from Bluestorm but no figure was specified in its claim before Judge Kennedy or last week's appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Senior appeal court judge Lord Justice Buxton upheld Judge Kennedy's verdict.

Embassy Court resident and Bluestorm spokeswoman Rowena Easton said: "We're delighted. It's fantastic news.

"The restoration would still have gone ahead if we'd lost this appeal but it means we'll have more money in the kitty and we can finally move on."

Embassy Court, featuring luxury penthouses and much-sought-after sea views, was built by modernist architect Wells Coates and opened in 1935.

But it began to fall into severe disrepair in the Seventies when many flats were taken over by absentee leaseholders and a succession of freeholders.

Leaseholders who built up large rent and service charge arrears were blamed for the lack of money to maintain the building.

Mr Marcel's Portvale Limited (PVL), a subsidiary of PHL, owned the freehold from June 1994 to 1997, when it went into liquidation after being ordered by a court to carry out repairs worth £1.5 million.

After a court battle, the freehold was taken over by a tenants' association which formed Bluestorm and issued a writ asking PHL to pay its service charges.

PHL and its solicitor Chris Camillin, also a flat-owner at Embassy Court, issued counter-claims for damages but these were rejected by Judge Kennedy.

He ordered PHL to hand over £78,000 to Bluestorm.

PHL's appeal was against the failure to award them any damages.

Judge Kennedy had said: "To claim in respect of alleged loss suffered as a result of disrepair to which Portvale has substantially contributed by its intransigent conduct is inelegant to the point of being offensive."

Bluestorm, working with a team of architects put together by design guru Sir Terence Conran, hopes refurbishment will begin this summer.

Tuesday February 17, 2004

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