Golf club owner sues builders for £8m over fire

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir December 20, 2020 07:47

The owner of a Sussex golf club is taking legal action over building contractors after a major fire devastated the venue in 2018.

Matthew Rogerson, who opened Cottesmore Hotel Golf and Country Club in the 1970s, claims workers could have started the fire by smoking ‘profusely’ during construction work, reports The Telegraph.

He is seeking more than £8 million in damages, claiming that their carelessness caused the devastating fire which ripped through Cottesmore Hotel Golf and Country Club.

The blaze allegedly broke out at the hotel after a cigarette sparked a blaze in a laundry bag close to building works on June 11, 2018.

Flames spread rapidly and despite ten fire engines arriving quickly at the scene, much of the recently renovated hotel was destroyed.

The building contractor, Eco Top Heat & Power, has denied that its workman were to blame, but a writ lodged by Mr Rogerson’s legal team with the High Court claims: “During the works, the defendant’s employees smoked profusely in and around the tunnel while working and when on breaks, and on the scaffolding and in the barn store while working.

“The fire was caused by a cigarette discarded by one of the defendant’s employees. The seat of the fire was the top of a laundry bag in the tunnel. A cigarette discarded in or into the tunnel could have ignited the laundry. A cigarette discarded in the barn store which fell through the gap between the floorboards and the wall would have landed on the laundry at the point where the seat of the fire was located.”

The claim alleges that an angle grinder being used by Eco Top Heat & Power’s workmen could have also caused sparks which started the fire.

The leisure resort first opened in 1973 when Mr Rogerson, then a young farmer, and his father Michael, turned their farm into a golf course, with the farm buildings, built by French prisoners of war in 1815, converted into a clubhouse.

Mr Rogerson’s daughter Louisa, together with her husband Johnny Porter, took on the business in 2013 and were just months away from completing a complete refurbishment of the hotel when the fire devastated the business.
Eco Top Heat & Power had been hired to create four new windows in a storage room called the Barn Store, which was sited over a tunnel used to store dirty laundry waiting for collection, with a gap of up to three inches between the floorboards and the wall.

In legal documents Mr Rogerson accuses the company of negligence, claiming its employees discarded a cigarette which fell into the laundry bag, failed to ensure their cigarettes were extinguished, and failed to have a policy confining smoking to certain areas.

He has denied that any of the hotel’s staff were responsible for starting the fire, saying that few of them smoked and those that did smoke did not smoke around the tunnel.

Following the blaze, two wings of the hotel needed complete reconstruction, with other parts of the building left badly damaged by smoke.

The claim for damages includes a claim for losses incurred by the interruption of business until as recently as January this year, with the hotel forced to cancel dozens of venues and other events.

Eco Top Heat Power denies the claims of negligence and insists its workers did not start the blaze. The firm says they were not using a grinder on the day of the fire or near where the blaze took hold.

It blamed hotel staff for the fire, claiming a woman with tattoos, thought to be a housekeeper, could have been responsible. But in court documents the Cottesmore said that she was not working the day of the blaze.

All guests and staff were safely evacuated from the venue, which includes a 27-hole golf course, during the fire.

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir December 20, 2020 07:47
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1 Comment

  1. Neil December 23, 10:31

    My heart goes out to Mr Rogerson I can really feel his plight. We all share the frustration when one tries hard to run a business safely and you observe others so thoughtlessly behaving. Noone wins in this situation and the smoker(whoever it was) will no doubt carry on in their careless way.

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