In the case of British Steel Corporation v Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Co Ltd (1981) no contract had been agreed but work had been done on instruction via a letter of intent requesting that work proceed immediately but gave no delivery date. The claimants sued for the cost of manufacturing the steel. The defendants alleged that the steel was delivered late and out of sequence and counterclaimed accordingly.
While the Court concluded that no binding contract was entered into between the parties, Robert Goff J went on to consider the ‘reasonableness of the time for performance’ in the event that the claimants had been under a duty to complete the works and effect delivery of the steel within a reasonable time. The Court followed the reasoning in Hick v Raymond & Reid, and envisaged a two-stage test, as Robert Goff J put it:
‘As I understand it, I have first to consider what would, in ordinary circumstances, be a reasonable time for the performance of the relevant services [i.e. the manufacture and delivery of the nodes to the required specification]; and I have then to consider to what extent the time for performance by BSC was in fact extended by extraordinary circumstances outside their control.’
In other words, it is clearly not sufficient to look to the ‘ordinary time’ for the performance of works without regard to the circumstances at the time of performance.