ALLEGED problems with the construction of a string of East Lancashire schools are at the centre of legal fights totalling £14m.

Law lords look set to run the rule over a series of cases involving educational establishments built under the controversial £250m Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.

The former Catalyst Education Lancashire (Phase 2), now known as Lancashire SPC Phase 2, the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) project company responsible for the BSF schools, had been given notice by Lancashire County Council (LCC) of intended deductions from various payments due to the former.

This specifically relates to the Sir John Thursby College and Ridgewood Community High site in Burnley, which opened at a new site in Eastern Avenue in September 2009, formed from the merger of the former Barden and Walshaw high schools three years earlier.

Lawyers representing Lancashire SPC have taken out interlinked claims against construction firm Lendlease (Europe) - then known as Bovis Lend Lease - and facilities management company Equans - which used to trade as Vita Lend Lease, alleging acoustic, wall tie, fire, architectural, civil and structural, mechanical and engineering, and energy and render defects.

The High Court heard the claims were first lodged in 2021 and had been stayed on a number of occasions but are now proceeding.

Now the latest hearing, before Mr Alexander Nissen KC, concerned an application by LCC to set aside or strike out the Lancashire SPC proceedings, pending the issues being determined by a separate adjudication process.

Rejecting the application, Mr Nissen said: "In respect of Phase 2 alone, this is essentially a multi-party dispute. I am very doubtful that a bilateral adjudication of the contingent dispute between the project company and the authority will satisfactorily resolve matters."

He also noted that the other parties involved in the wider case had not sought adjudication to resolve the issues at hand.

The judge adjourned the Phase 2 case for defences to be served by LendLease and Equans - it was said to be possible the Phase 1 case could be consolidated with the action.

The Business and Property Court was told earlier there were similar cases underway concerning the project company responsible for Phase 1 schools, on similar defect grounds.

Phase 1 schools include Burnley Campus, which includes Thomas Whitham Sixth Form, Barden Primary, Reedley Hallows Nursery and Holly Grove special school, Pendle Vale Campus, covering Pendle Vale College and Pendle Community High, and Shuttleworth College.

'Pre-action' discussions were also said to have been taking place over the Phase 2A schools Marsden Heights Community College in Pendle and Unity College in Burnley and Phase 3 schools, which included Blessed Trinity RC College, Hameldon Community College and The Rose School in Burnley.

The court was told the claim for the Phase 2 litigation was £1.42m, not accounting for the proposed deductions of around £3m.

Meanwhile the claim for Phase 1amounted to £5m, for Phase 2A around £2.74m and for Phase 3 £1.76m.

In 2010, any future BSF ambitions for East Lancashire were thwarted when the new incoming coalition government ended the programme.

Blackburn MP Jack Straw and Labour colleagues condemned plans which saw proposals to overhaul the likes of Mount Carmel RC High in Accrington, Oswaldtwistle's Rhyddings High, Norden High at Rishton, Colne's Park High, Primet High and Fisher More schools, West Craven High, Haslingden High and Haslingden Tor View special school blocked.

Last night a spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: "The court proceedings concerned the contractual arrangements in respect of the construction and maintenance of buildings at Sir John Thursby Community College and Ridgewood Community High School.

"The PFI contractor responsible for the schools has commenced legal proceedings against two subcontractors with a view to ensuring that any defects in the buildings are remedied.

"The judge ruled that the council should be joined to any action taken by the PFI contractor, despite the fact that the council has never been a party to the contracts with the subcontractors.

"As a council, we look forward to seeing the PFI contractor resolve these issues with its supply chain."

LendLease and Equans were approached for comment but did not respond.