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Willmott Partnership Homes 'disappointed' with council legal threat

4 September 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

Bridport House (Image: Hackney Council)

Willmott Partnership Homes, the residential arm of Willmott Dixon, has defended itself in a row over alleged defects at a council block in London, after Hackney Council announced that it was launching legal action.

The council announced this week that it is moving residents out while remedial works at Bridport House are undertaken to what it describes as “potentially combustible insulation” used during the block’s construction in 2011.

The council claimed that subsequent investigations of the building have revealed “serious construction defects”, including missing fire stops, and flawed brickwork, balconies and windows.

But Willmott Partnership Homes has defended its position and asserted it that it does not accept many of the council’s claims.

In a statement, the company said: “Willmott Partnership Homes is disappointed at the way the problems at Bridport House have been portrayed by Hackney Council. This is an extremely complicated matter, significantly exacerbated by various aspects of the Building Regulations recently being reinterpreted following the Grenfell tragedy. 

"For example, the insulation the Council refers to was widely accepted as complying with Building Regulations at the time it was installed, and indeed was specifically approved as being compliant by the council’s Building Control team.  Both the cross laminated timber frame structure and the insulation were both detailed within the council's tender specification upon which the building contract was entirely based.

“The council has made some very strong statements today, many of which we do not accept.  However, in view of the threat of legal action, we are prevented from responding to them in detail at this stage.

“Notwithstanding that point, we too want to say how sorry we are that matters have turned out in this way, and of course for the concern this will have caused to the residents at Bridport House."

The council said it has had additional fire protection measures in place at Bridport House since concerns were first raised – including 24-hour patrols and a change in evacuation procedure. But after speaking to the London Fire Brigade, Health and Safety Executive and independent experts, they said it would be unsafe for residents to remain in the building while work to remove the insulation and replace it with the correct type takes place.

The remedial work will involve the removal of all brickwork and balconies, exposing the existing insulation and creating a fire risk. It is expected to take two years to complete.

Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville said: “We will be taking legal action to hold those responsible for these failures to account. We also should have done a better job. This was not an easy decision to make, but as we’ve demonstrated through our proactive work to remove cladding on other buildings, install thousands of new front doors and publish fire risk assessments online, we will never take any risks with fire safety.”

Comments

It is very easy to comment against the now in place building regulations. But how does the development stack up against the regulations in place at the time of planning approval and when the practical completion certificate was issued.
These are questions that need to be asked./

Rod Appleyard, 6 September 2019

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