Persimmon fire barrier inspections continue

Persimmon fire barrier inspections continue

THE HOUSING developer is continuing to inspect fire safety barriers in its developments nationally after discoveries in Devon and the South West that these were missing.

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. The property at Hill Barton Vale is one of six named by a whistleblower as having failed health and safety inspections, after a fire at a similar development in April 2018.

The snake’s escape and capture last August led to an inspection of the six flat building by social housing provider LiveWest, with the resident claiming compartmentation barriers were missing between his and all other flats in the building. Another Exeter resident Paul Frost launched an investigation in a separate block after he found his home was also missing fire safety barriers.

Persimmon is said to have ‘persistently refused’ to answer questions about how many homes have failed inspections, and how many other developments locally and nationwide have failed. It had ‘initially denied’ a problem with the properties after Mr Frost had notified them of concerns at his own property, with Persimmon then sending letters to residents asking them to inspect their own homes ‘due to roof space cavity problems’ in what was believed to be Mr Frost’s home.

Persimmon later admitted that it is inspecting a ‘wider area of properties’ as a consequence. Now, Devon Live has reported that the inspections have broadened, though the company has ‘not disclosed’ which developments are being inspected. However, ‘it is now known’ that the new East Devon town Cranbrook, Hill Barton Vale in Exeter, Coverdale in Paignton and developments in Cornwall ‘are among’ those being inspected.

While the majority are achieving a pass rate of over 90% of plots inspected, the pass rate at Newcourt is 59%, with this development one of two seeing a fire last year in which fire spread to the roof spaces of adjoining properties. Persimmon has also been criticised for ‘taking too long’ to undertake the inspections, for sending out inspection request letters ‘on unheaded paper’, and for confusing residents by sending out such letters after homes have been inspected.

An email from Richard Oldroyd, regional chairman of Persimmon Homes, to a resident said: ‘You have asked what we are doing nationally and I can confirm that further inspections are being completed, but I am unable to provide details at this stage. I can confirm that as we previously advised when we met we have increased the resource on this project to ensure we are able to complete the inspections in shorter timescales.

‘As you are aware we had relied upon the National House Building Council (NHBC) as part of their building control service to ensure that the cavity barriers were correctly installed. As a result of this failure in process we have instigated our own additional checking regime to provide an additional compliance inspection.’

Addressing concerns over additional checks in another email to a resident, he added: ‘We are arranging secondary inspections to properties where we need to carry out an intrusive inspection where we have been unable to get into the roof space, for example vaulted ceilings on two and a half storey houses. If any customer is concerned then they should contact our customer service department and we will provide confirmation and clarity.’

Mr Frost shared with Devon Live his results from surveying residents after Persimmon was ‘originally unwilling to tell him how many homes they had inspected and had failed’, with 168  sharing their results, and of those 106 stating that their homes failed - a failure rate of 63%. He said: ‘Not all of the contacts I have had are Persimmon barrier issues and not all of them relate specifically to the matter of the barriers at eaves level.

‘Some are failure issues on party walls which is the wall between homes, such as semi or terraced homes, and is designed to stop transfer of a fire between them. These issues are as serious, if not more so, than the eaves barriers I first noticed.’

A spokesperson for Persimmon Homes said: 'Persimmon Homes takes this matter very seriously and continues to carry out checks at developments across the South West and liaising with customers, including carrying out letter drops and contacting home owners directly. Should there be any outstanding concerns customers are invited to talk directly to the regional team. The process is still current and it is not appropriate to comment on findings until all the checks are concluded.'