Leighton Contractors has agreed to pay for the damage suffered by buildings, thought to be partly caused by the construction of the Sydney Eastern Distributor tunnel (ED).

Importantly, the independent technical consultants, who assessed the damage, recommended that only 15% of the damage should be attributed to the construction of the ED.

According to the commission of inquiry: “almost all the subject buildings under discussion are old and in general have foundation strata that is susceptible to settlement arising from climatic conditions.”

A spokesperson for the contractors said: “While Leighton does not acknowledge or accept that the construction of the ED caused the damage, given the relatively small amount of damage ‘attributed’ to the construction of the ED from the commission of inquiry and the independent technical assessment, we have agreed to compensate residents.”

The repairs amounted to US$56,000 for 38 houses. At less than US$1,474 on average per house, Leighton will also offer homeowners the opportunity to take a cash alternative.

The damage is largely restricted to minor cracking of plaster, which requires repair and repainting. In most cases this should not take longer than a week.

Planning minister, Andrew Refshauge, said that the government “will ensure that all repairs are completed as soon as possible and at no cost to the home owners.”

The 1.7km long, 24.5m wide tunnel was completed in January 2000, and is part of a new route that forms an unbroken link between the CBD and the airport and south-eastern suburbs.