Belfast Telegraph

Judge rules building work on new Omagh hospital can proceed

By Alan Erwin

The construction of a new hospital in Omagh has been given the green light by a High Court judge after a dispute over contracts ended.

The Western Trust's preferred bidder can now press ahead on new construction contracts worth up to £100m.

Until yesterday, health chiefs had been prevented from signing a framework agreement with building firm McLaughlin & Harvey on the work.

A block was put in place after a rival company that narrowly lost out in the tendering process issued legal proceedings.

But Mr Justice Stephens granted an order allowing the arrangement to go ahead.

He said: "The balance comes down firmly in favour of the public interest in the construction, in an appropriate timescale, of a new hospital."

Under the public procurement procedure a hospital is due to be built at a site on Donaghanie Road in Omagh.

As well as that initial contract, other health-related projects in the area are expected to feature in a four-year performance-related partnering framework agreement.

The estimated value of the agreement is between £50m and £100m.

Last October, McLaughlin & Harvey was confirmed as the preferred choice out of seven bidders.

John Sisk & Son Holdings came second in the process by the narrowest of margins.

Any increase in the firm's score would have resulted in it being appointed as the preferred bidder instead, the judge acknowledged.

John Sisk & Son questioned the validity of its rival's appointment and claimed significant concerns about the tendering process and subsequent evaluation.

Legal proceedings were then commenced against the trust and department last November in a bid to have the decision on the preferred bidder set aside.

In that action the company claims the public procurement process was unlawful, and in breach of both the Public Contract Regulations 2006 and EU law.

Meanwhile, Mr Justice Stephens was asked to allow the trust to proceed with the framework agreement.

In a judgment given last month but only published yesterday, he pointed out that considerable expenditure has already taken place on site works ahead of construction of the new Omagh hospital.

Bridge costs of £3.7m have reportedly been spent. Another £5.43m on contracts to prepare the site has also been announced.

The judge held that damages would be an adequate remedy for John Sisk & Son if it ultimately succeeds in its action, but not for the trust.

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