Further Persimmon fire barrier issues identified
THE TREVATHAN Meadows development in Liskeard, Cornwall might have missing cavity barriers, with Persimmon set to undertake inspections.
In April last year, it was revealed that Persimmon was inspecting ‘hundreds’ of homes in Plymouth, whose residents had ‘initially’ been told that their properties ‘weren’t affected’ by missing compartmentation. Earlier this year, a resident in a block of flats built by Persimmon in Exeter claimed his pet python’s escape and discovery ‘exposed fire safety breaches’ in ‘missing’ fire safety compartmentation.
Persimmon later admitted that it was inspecting a ‘wider area of properties’, with inspections broadened out. In March missing barriers had been confirmed in properties in Cornwall and Devon, and the inspection programme found over 650 homes in the south west had ‘missing or incorrectly installed’ barriers. In May a BBC Watchdog Live investigation found that new homes have ‘potentially dangerous’ issues, including being sold with ‘missing or incorrectly installed’ fire barriers.
One Exeter estate had 37% of homes missing fire barriers, and the investigation established that ‘serious breaches have gone undetected during construction’, while a 48 apartment Coventry building was evacuated after defects were found. It was then revealed that nearly 50 new builds in Kent were to be inspected due to ‘concerns’ over whether ‘adequate’ fire safety measures have been installed correctly in roofs, and in September homes in Barry, Wales had the same issues.
Most recently in December 2019, the company was found by an independent review it commissioned to have experienced a ‘systemic nationwide failure’ to install firestopping cavity barriers in its homes. The independent review by Stephanie Barwise, of law firm Atkin Chambers, found that Persimmon was leaving customers exposed to an ‘intolerable risk’ of fire, and had experienced a ‘systemic nationwide failure’ in terms of installing cavity barriers.
The report also noted that the failure to meet minimum building standards was a ‘manifestation of poor culture’ at the company. It urged company directors to ‘reconsider Persimmon’s purpose and ambition’, as it has a ‘nationwide problem of missing and/or incorrectly installed cavity barriers in its timber-frame properties’. Despite having ‘reacted quickly’ to the issue, Persimmon has only inspected the eaves of properties, ‘and not assessed whether the same problem was occurring in party walls and around windows and doors’.
The company has undertaken over 16,000 inspections, and said it would take ‘all reasonable action to identify and remediate every house’ affected. Despite this, the report established a ‘culture of non-observance’ to safety checks, with staff having treated them as a ‘mere box-ticking exercise […] stemming from a belief that any single stage is not important, as another check or inspection will follow later’.
The Negotiator added that the report was ‘likely to expose construction failings across [the] industry’, and that the ‘fire safety scandal threatens to engulf’ the sector due to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick’s criticism of the company. He released a statement commenting that the company ‘will want to take immediate action to address the concerns raised’, while highlighting a need for greater home buyer protection and plans to establish a housing ombudsman.
Wales Online has now reported that planned inspections at the Trevethan Meadows estate could find cavity barriers ‘have been left out’ of some of the homes, with Persimmon notifying residents and beginning its inspections. It added that inspections ‘were being carried out as a precautionary measure’, with a letter to residents reading: ‘We have recently become aware that some timber frame properties on your development have not had cavity barriers correctly installed at roof level.
‘Cavity barriers are a fire safety measure and whilst they are only one of a number of fire protection measures which are incorporated into your home, we believe it is important that as a precautionary measure, we conduct checks to satisfy ourselves that these have been isolated incidents.’
A number of residents were said to have posted on social media that their homes had failed inspections, with Persimmon having ‘apologised to customers affected’ and stated that it ‘is committed to resolving the issue’.