The Evolution of Adjudication in the UK

May 1, 1998, saw the birth of construction adjudication in the UK with the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 brought into force. Adjudication has since been used widely for parties to settle construction-related disputes. It has evolved since the introduction of the Act, and in this paper we consider whether it is progressing towards the Darwinian idea of perfection, and whether it has become the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedure of choice in the UK’s modern construction industry. The first few years of the Act saw many challenges referred to the courts regarding the adjudicator’s jurisdiction, whether the adjudicator had maintained the requirement to exercise natural justice and questions concerning the adjudicators’ impartiality or bias. More recently we have seen change through revision brought about by the 2009 Act, which saw further court intervention on what have been referred to as "smash and grab" adjudications arising out of payment notice issues. However, the landscape could change again for construction adjudication with the recent decision in Grove Developments Limited v S&T (UK) Limited, which was a U-turn on the previous court decisions on smash and grab adjudications.

To discuss whether adjudication is moving towards perfection, it is important to consider the changing statistics on its use. The Adjudication Reporting Centre (ARC) at Glasgow Caledonian University has undertaken data collection from the various Adjudicator Nominating Bodies since 1999, giving us valuable data that reveals trends in adjudicator appointments. Some of these trends are consistent throughout the 19-year period in which the study has been produced. In summation:

  1. Referring parties are generally more successful than responding parties.
  2. Adjudication is mainly used in claim values ranging from £10,000 to £500,000.
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As natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress toward perfection.

Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species.

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