Barratt evacuates tower blocks for repairs
Builder faces £70m bill after structural weaknesses found in eight blocks, with some residents moved out
FAMILIES have been forced to leave their homes to make room for repair work after housebuilder Barratt Developments discovered structural weaknesses in eight of its tower blocks.
Occupiers have been forced to move away from some properties as the problems are fixed, with Barratt facing a £70m bill. The company blamed the problems on a subcontractor. It is still investigating a further 11 sites.
Chief executive David Thomas said families’ safety had not been put at risk by the defects, but issued an unreserved apology and pledged not to leave leaseholders out of pocket.
He said: “Legally we don’t have an obligation, but we recognise our wider responsibility – we are just stepping up to deal with it.”
The FTSE 100 developer started reviewing 26 developments after finding problems with the concrete frame of its Citiscape site in Croydon, London.
This issue was revealed by chance in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster while cladding was being replaced. Barratt built 12,604 homes in the year to June 30.
“Relatively minor” defects have now been found at seven of 26 developments under review, with repairs needed, while eight have no defects.
The remaining 11 sites are yet to be determined, but Barratt pointed to ini- tial findings ruling out problems as severe as those at Citiscape. Most of the buildings were designed more than 10 years ago.
Citiscape was designed for Barratt in 2001 by an unnamed third-party structural engineering firm, which has since been bought by a competitor.
The review covered buildings with concrete frames designed either by the engineering firm that designed Citiscape or the group that bought it.
The problems are a blow for Barratt as it tries to recover from the industrywide impact of coronavirus, which forced building sites to shut.
They also raise questions over the shape of the housebuilding trade more generally, following complaints about the quality of work by FTSE 100 rival Persimmon.
Mr Thomas said that the Citiscape design was not adequate, but that Barratt had never previously had problems with the third-party engineering firm.
He declined to name the business, which has since been dropped by the developer.
Mr Thomas said: “We are not trying to shift the blame to some other named party. We have where appropriate kept the relevant authorities informed.”
Barratt is also not naming the buildings involved – citing fear of “blighting” the developments and pushing the value down for residents who want to sell. It will try to recover the estimated £70m bill for fixing the buildings and temporarily rehousing residents from third parties, but warned this might not be possible. In most cases Barratt is not legally obliged to pay for the work, but is doing so anyway.
Barratt’s high-rise designs will now get reviewed by independent experts to try to avoid similar problems in the future.
In a trading update yesterday, Barratt also called for an extension to the Help to Buy taxpayer subsidy scheme as part of efforts to mitigate the impact of lockdown.
The company is also paying back £27m which it claimed from the taxpayer-funded furlough scheme.
Barratt chief executive David Thomas stressed families’ safety had not been put at risk, but apologised