ABB Zantingh Ltd v Zedal Building Services Ltd [2001]

ABB Zantingh Ltd v Zedal Building Services Ltd [2001]

In this case the Mirror Group contracted with Scottish Southern Energy (SSE) for the installation of seven large diesel generators on two sites, the principal purpose of which was printing. The combined power of the generators was enough to satisfy the daytime needs of Cheltenham (a small town in Gloucestershire). SSE subcontracted the works to ABB Zantingh Ltd (ABB), who in turn subcontracted the supply, installation, labelling, termination and testing of all field wiring including containment and support to Zedal Building Services Ltd (Zedal).

These works were undertaken primarily to guarantee the availability of power to the printing works over the 2000 New Year when many companies feared business interruption caused by the ‘millennium bug’. The works were not connected to or consequential upon any other works being undertaken at that time at the printing works.

Disputes arose between Zedal and ABB, which Zedal referred to adjudication. ABB sought a declaration from the court that there was no right to adjudicate on the basis that Zedal’s works amounted to plant on a site where the primary activity is power generation (the section 105(2)(c) exception).

Following the decisions in Homer Burgess v Chirex (1999) and ABB Power v Norwest Holst (2000) the judge concluded that Zedal’s works did come within the definition of ‘plant’ for the purposes of the Act.

The question facing the court then was: what was the site? Was it the whole of the printing works, or was it limited to the enclosure within that larger site in which the generating equipment was erected?

The judge concluded that to make sense of the Act one has to look at the nature of the whole site and ask what is the primary purpose of the whole site. Is the primary purpose power generation, or, in this case, printing?

Applying this reasoning, the judge found that the primary purpose of the site was printing, and therefore the work of Zedal did not fall within any exception provided by section 105(2)(c) of the Act.

ABB Zantingh Ltd v Zedal Building Services Limited HC-00-400 [Dec 2000]