ENGINEERING company Cleveland Bridge claimed victory in a long-running dispute with the developer of the new Wembley Stadium last night – despite being ordered to pay it £6m.

Australian company Multiplex said the Darlington company was in breach of contract when it ended its involvement with the project shortly after completing work on the stadium’s iconic arch.

Cleveland Bridge counter-sued for money it said it was owed by Multiplex.

Although a judge yesterday ordered Cleveland Bridge (CBUK) to pay Multiplex £6.1m for overpayment, damages for breach of contract and interest, it was far less than the £25m Multiplex said it lost after Cleveland Bridge left the project in August 2004.

Cleveland Bridge, which employs about 600 workers in Darlington, said the award would not affect its ability to carry out its contracts.

Following yesterday’s ruling by Mr Justice Jackson, a spokeswoman for Cleveland Bridge said: “Cleveland Bridge UK has been generally vindicated on most of its arguments, but has had awards made against it on some technical points.

“As a consequence, a small percentage of Multiplex’s costs have been awarded.

“Overall, Cleveland Bridge UK is having to pay significantly less than Multiplex were claiming.”

It has applied for permission to appeal on the points that it lost on.

The spokeswoman added: “Cleveland Bridge UK were judged to not have caused a negative impact on the Wembley National Stadium project.

“The major effect on Cleveland Bridge UK’s position has arisen out of the interpretations around the valuation of its work content and its entitlement to payments under the contract.”

The company will also pay 20 per cent of Multiplex’s legal costs, about £1.75m.

Mr Justice Jackson criticised both sides for failing to reach a settlement earlier.

Costs had reached £8m two years ago when the judge hoped the groups might reach agreement through mediation.

Since then, a further £14m has been added to the legal bill – including at least £1m on photocopying alone.

Summing up yesterday, the judge said: ‘‘All thoughts of reaching a sensible settlement were seemingly jettisoned.

“Over the last two years, both parties have brushed aside repeated judicial observations on the wisdom of settling this particular litigation.”

Multiplex, renamed Brookfield Construction after it was acquired by a Canadian asset management group earlier this year, could now face a legal costs bill of about £10m.

A spokesman for Brookfield said: “The settlement, as it stands, is within our expected range of outcomes and we are pleased that the judgement in our favour does at least vindicate our claim.”

Earlier this year, Cleveland Bridge outlined plans to recruit 300 staff in the next 12 months after it secured contracts worth £100m to carry out work on a skycraper in London and provide steel for the M74 extension in Scotland.

It is also one of the companies involved in the contract to build two drilling rigs at the Haverton Hill shipyard, on Teesside.

The Cleveland Bridge UK spokeswoman said: “Cleveland Bridge UK has a significant number of successful projects currently under construction, and the size of this award will not affect its ability to perform on any of its current commitments.”