Bar­ratt evac­u­ates tower blocks for re­pairs

Builder faces £70m bill af­ter struc­tural weak­nesses found in eight blocks, with some res­i­dents moved out

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Rachel Mil­lard

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

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