Ruttle Plant Hire Ltd v The Secretary Of State For The Environment

The contract for cleaning up operations on farms arising out of the foot and mouth disease epidemic was a construction contract

Technology and Construction Court
His Honour Judge Anthony Thornton QC
29 September 2004
The issue for determination was whether the contract for cleaning up operations on farms arising out of the foot and mouth disease epidemic was a construction contract with the meaning of the Construction Act 1996. Section 105(1) provides that construction operations within the meaning of the Act include (i) the external or internal cleaning of buildings and structures so far as carried out in the course of their restoration (sub-section (d)) and (ii) operations which form an integral part of, are preparatory to or are for rendering complete operations previously described in section 105(1), including site clearance, earth-moving, excavation, erection, maintenance or dismantling of scaffolding, site restoration, landscaping and the provision of roadways and other access works (sub-section (e)).
Judge Thornton held that the contract was such a contract on the basis that the contract works, when looked at broadly and in the round, fell within the definition of construction operations in section 105(1)(d) and (e) of the Act in that the works were either restoration by cleaning or works which were integral or preparatory to or for rendering complete that overall cleaning restoration The circumstances which led the judge to this conclusion were that (a) the core activities were the cleaning of all relevant surfaces with high pressure water and disinfectant, the associated construction of lagoons, water channels and slurry pits, the construction of access roads and hard standings and the supply and installation of piping and temporary tanks (b) the farmer was prohibited by law from re-opening the farm until it had been isolated and the work had been carried out and completed (c) the work in a real sense was restoring the farm and its buildings since before the work was carried out the premises had been rendered unusable as a result of the arrival of the foot and mouth virus and the operation of the mandatory disease control measures applied by the government department (d) the plant required for carrying out the work was largely heavy engineering and construction plant (e) the process was called generically "cleansing" and (f) the purpose of the exercise was to put the farm and its associated building and structures into a state in which it could be restocked and the farm, farm buildings and associated structures brought back to working life.