• High Court finds in favour of Whittington Health Trust in dispute with Ryhurst
  • Company claimed trust pulled out of deal because of political pressure related to sister company’s involvement with Grenfell Tower
  • But trust argued it decided to abandon contract because its financial situation improved

The High Court has today ruled in favour of a trust in a legal battle over the provider’s decision to pull out of a public-private estates tie-up.

Estates firm Ryhurst had argued the Whittington Health Trust walked away from a £300m strategic estates partnership because of political pressure — including from MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry, and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan — caused by its sister company’s links to the Grenfell Tower fire. 

In June 2017, the trust named Ryhurst, part of the Rydon construction group, as the partnership’s preferred bidder. Days later, the Grenfell Tower fire killed 72 people, leading to the maintenance work on the building — which was carried out by Rydon Maintenance Ltd, another component of the Rydon Group — to be scrutinised.

Shortly after the fire, the Whittington paused its procurement process. In June 2018, the trust announced it was abandoning the tie-up with Ryhurst.

In documents filed with the court, Ryhurst argued the trust was bowing to pressure from local campaigners and MPs to abandon the SEP, which built after the Grenfell disaster. 

Ryhurst, which was seeking £14m in damages for what it claimed was the unlawful abandonment of the SEP, said the trust “decided to abandon the procurement as a result of ‘political’ pressure, not only directly from [the Defend the Whittington campaign group] and local MPs, but also from and/or through NHSI and/or the Mayor of London”.

However, the trust told the court its financial situation had improved and it was on better terms with its local partners so it no longer needed the SEP.

A trust spokeswoman told HSJ in November it “no longer needed a single commercial partner to work with us to develop plans for our estate”, as it could work independently with a range of organisations and specialists.

A judge in the High Court’s Technology and Construction Court has today ruled in favour of the trust.

The trust’s chief executive, Siobhan Harrington, said: “We are very pleased at this outcome. We were always disappointed that Ryhurst chose to take legal action and we defended our decision to abandon the procurement robustly.

“We have already pushed forward with a number of improvements to our buildings — on our hospital sites and in some of our community locations.”

The trust has “developed a long-term draft estates strategy in-house which we are talking to staff and local people about at the moment” and a final version will be published later this year, she added.

In a statement, Ryhurst said: “We are disappointed with the outcome and are considering our position.”