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Bullivant judgement awaits formation of appeals panel

FINAL JUDGMENT on complaints made to the Federation of Piling Specialists against piling specialist Roger Bullivant has been delayed to allow an independent appeals panel to be formed.

The new panel is required as three members of the FPS's standing appeals panel work for firms that originally made complaints against Bullivant. The fourth is outgoing FPS chairman John Patch, who is Bullivant's sales and marketing director.

Solicitor Edwards Geldard has been drafted in by Bullivant to fight its case after initial complaints over the use of its novel precast piling system by five FPS member firms were partially upheld last month.

The complaints came after a number of failures associated with the RB precast pile came to light in June. The complainants alleged the failures damaged public perception of the piling industry and that use of the pile involved undue risk.

Bullivant's solicitors have since sent FPS members letters reminding them of the confidentiality of the complaints process and have also noted to the FPS that judicial review could be sought if any appeal process was considered to be unfair.

The RB pile consists of singly reinforced precast sections connected with a unique glued joint.

It is cheaper than conventional mechanical joints but is not designed for tensile or lateral loads. Strict conditions for use are specified on the product's British Board of Agrement certificate.

Rival FPS firms, none of which used glued joints, claim that the product creates high engineering risk. Bullivant, however, maintains the pile is a value engineered product and offers a cheaper solution when used appropriately.

The FPS complaints procedure - a central plank of a new registration scheme established to guarantee quality to clients - was triggered immediately on adoption in August by fellow FPS members Aarsleff, Van Elle, Stent, Expanded Piling and Kvaerner Cementation. All lodged complaints about the RB precast pile.

Bullivant and FPS chairman Graham Wren said a new independent panel should be formed by the end of the year, ready to re-examine the complaints.

Allowing for the holiday season, the four-week inquiry should be complete by February.

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