Architect ‘diverted doctors’ cash to build granny annex’

The house near Tonbridge, Kent (Champion News)
The house near Tonbridge, Kent (Champion News)

Two doctors who spent £3.2 million on a home refurbishment are suing their architect over claims he secretly used their builder for work on his own property, including a granny annex.

Dr Stephen Pereira and his wife Dr Preeti Pereira enlisted architect Simon Whitehead in 2018 for their project in south London and allege he was to blame for the work overrunning by a year and costing an extra £1 million.

The couple claim money and resources from their scheme was diverted to building work on Mr Whitehead’s homes. Work included general maintenance at his home in East Dulwich and an extension, new roof, doors and a bungalow granny annex at their home near Tonbridge, Kent, the court was told.

They are suing Mr Whitehead, his architectural firm, and his solicitor wife Victoria, at the High Court seeking repayment of half the money they spent on the refurbishment.

The Whiteheads deny any wrongdoing saying the addition of “luxurious” extras to the Pereiras’ project, the impact of Covid, and failings by the builder were the real causes of delays and extra spending. Mr Whitehead, 47, whose work has featured in the Grand Designs magazine, insists they paid for all the work done on their own properties themselves, at a cost of more than £300,000. Their barrister Imran Benson told the High Court the allegations were “scandalous and misconceived”.

“There was no nefarious scheme between the defendants and the contractor to rip-off the claimants”, he said, in a written court filing.

In their claim, Dr Stephen Pereira, 60, a cognitive behavioural therapist, and his wife Preeti, 60, a specialist in epidemiology, say they hired Simon Whitehead Architects Ltd to design a new kitchen extension and a large basement featuring a bar and cinema.

They say they believed the builder was having cashflow problems and that they were “advised” by Mr Whitehead to make upfront payments to keep the work on track. They claim they have now learned from the builder that the architect had “directed him to, effectively, misdirect the payments... in order to finance the Whitehead projects”.