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Darwin Green residents seek reassurance over safety of homes after foundation shock

Worried Darwin Green residents are calling for evidence that their homes are safe after faults were found in the foundations of newly-built homes on the site.

The residents said in a letter to Barratt and David Wilson Homes that they are concerned about the “soundness of the foundations” on which their homes are built.

They are calling for “evidence-based” reassurance to ensure their homes are “not devalued and made unsaleable”.

Houses on the Darwin Green development off Huntingon Road Picture: Keith Heppell
Houses on the Darwin Green development off Huntingon Road Picture: Keith Heppell

The letter, which has been seen by the Cambridge Independent, includes a petition which has been signed by more than 50 households living on phase one of the development.

Cllr Simon Smith (Lab, Castle) has been supporting residents and says he will not stop until they are “all happy” and “not having to worry any more”.

Last week, the Cambridge Independent revealed that 36 new homes on the second phase of the Darwin Green site after problems with their foundations were discovered.

“You’ve got residents of phase one who are worried sick about the integrity of the foundations their houses are built on,” said Cllr Smith.

He added that residents living around the site are also angry that “they’re going to have to endure further loss of amenity and urban pollution” during the demolition and the redevelopment.

Developer Barratt and David Wilson Homes Cambridgeshire says it has written to all phase one residents to reassure them that the faults were an “isolated issue”.

But residents are calling for the developer to provide contemporaneous evidence of the “plot-by-plot checks and inspections” to demonstrate its claims.

The letter, which is due to be sent to the developer later this week, is signed on behalf of residents of Beagle Road, Falmouth Avenue, Falmouth Close, Plymouth Close, Randal Way and Shrewsbury Road.

Cllr Simon SmithPicture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Simon SmithPicture: Keith Heppell

It also calls for an independent “suitably qualified and experienced” building inspector to review the checks, inspections and cross-check those records against the “approved foundation detail and ground conditions”.

They also call for the inspector to “provide a professional opinion on the soundness of the foundations with recommendations for any further steps required to reassure residents, the warranty provider, and providers of building insurance and mortgages”.

The letter states: “We are contacting the council’s building control service as the regulatory body on steps to be taken to secure assurance that the foundations comply with the building regulations.”

It concludes: “We look forward to progressing this matter to a conclusion where contemporaneous evidence confirms the foundations of all dwellings in our streets to be sound and there is no impairment of the saleability and value of our homes.”

The Federation of Cambridge Residents’ Associations (FeCRA) is also supporting calls for an independent inquiry.

Wendy Blythe, chair of FeCRA, said: “It is truly shocking that shoddy building standards impacting so many people’s lives have got through like this. How can local politicians and the planners talk about a local plan working towards net zero when such poor work has been approved and now needs to be demolished?

“All the talk about addressing climate change is becoming a joke. Many residents are asking what scrutiny there was before planning permission. Rules and regulations seem to be in freefall.”

Approval was given for the final 210 homes at Darwin Green in April. However, the developer was told the conditions it has yet to fulfil from previous rounds are not a “Woolworths pick and mix”. The conditions relate to open space, community facilities and medical facilities.

Houses on the Darwin Green development off Huntingon Road Picture: Keith Heppell
Houses on the Darwin Green development off Huntingon Road Picture: Keith Heppell

Lilian Rundblad, chair of Histon Road Area Residents Association, who is on the FeCRA committee and a member of the Darwin Green steering committee, added: “They have been promising for years to have the health centre, superstore, community centre, library, primary school, secondary school ready but so far nothing has been finished and opened. The closest is the community centre, which they have refused to give the keys to the community officers, the library has now been delayed to March 2024.”

A spokesperson for Barratt and David Wilson Homes Cambridgeshire said: “We have an extensive quality assurance process and during inspections we found that a small number of unoccupied properties at our Darwin Green development did not meet our usual high standards.

“Unfortunately the most effective course of action at this stage is to demolish the properties and rebuild them. We have apologised to the customers affected and understand their frustrations, but we are doing all that we can to lessen the impact of this for them.

“We have already written to all residents on phase one of the development to reassure them that this was an isolated issue with the designs of a new section of the development under construction. In addition, over the past fortnight an expert independent engineering firm has reviewed the designs of the existing properties and we can offer further reassurance to existing residents that their homes are not affected.

“We are now focused on ensuring that the demolition of the properties causes as little disruption as possible for existing residents.”

Cllr Antoinette Nestor (Lab, Castle) said: “As a young mum sending my children to school in Castle, I know the challenges young families face finding their feet in Cambridge today. Perhaps no challenge is greater than getting on the property ladder.

“We’re chronically short of homes in this country, and particularly in Cambridge, the most unequal city in the UK.

“The rise of nimbyism and the scandalous abolition of house- building targets by the Conservative government had only fuelled this crisis. The result is skyrocketing house prices, pricing young people out of home ownership and forcing them into dodgy renting.

“Which brings me to the devastating news that 36 new homes being built on the Darwin Green site will have to be demolished because they have been found to have unsafe foundations.

Houses on the Darwin Green development off Huntingon Road Picture: Keith Heppell
Houses on the Darwin Green development off Huntingon Road Picture: Keith Heppell

“Although these houses are empty, residents in phase one of the development have already moved in, leaving them wondering if their properties also face the same issue.”

Cambridge City Council officers met with the managing director of Barratt David Wilson (BDW) to understand the scale of the issue and to agree potential next steps.

A spokesperson explained: “The council has received information from BDW which identifies a number of plots at various stages of the construction process that are affected by foundation failure, none of which are understood to be occupied.

“Although not appointed as building control provider for this development by BDW, the council’s shared building control service, 3C Building Control, is the local enforcing body, so will now look to work with the local community and the site developer to ensure the next phase of works are compliant with building regulations.

“As part of the planning application process, there will be a period of public consultation which will enable nearby residents and members of the public to raise any issues they may have relating to the development.

“The council will also work with the local community and site developer, to ensure that any impacts of the potential demolition works are appropriately controlled.”

On Friday, the council confirmed it had received a demolition notice from the developer.

The authority has assured residents that officers will be carrying out site inspections during the demolition phases.

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