Councillors seek compensation for BxB housing scheme

BARRATT HOLMES on demands for apologies and compensation for Upper Norwood residents who have endured nearly three years of living on a building site for a scheme which Labour councillors have criticised for its ‘poor project management and delivery’

Another week, another set of complaints about a Brick by Brick development.

But this time, the sternly-worded complaints about the loss-making council-owned in-house house-builders are being made by Labour councillors.

Last month, the three ward councillors for Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood sent a withering email highly critical of the builders’ treatment of existing residents on the Auckland Rise estate, demanding apologies for the manner in which they had been treated, and seeking compensation.

There have been continuing problems for more than a year with the conduct of building contractors, both on the Brick by Brick-run site and from another, private developer’s site nearby which has adversely affected the Church Road conservation area.

The Auckland Rise estate, between Church Road and Auckland Road, comprises of 1960s flats, originally built as council homes and some of which provide homes for those with disabilities or requiring supported accommodation. Architect-designed, the flats were laid out on a hilly site with grassy open areas between them.

Part of the Auckland Rise estate, before BxB moved in

Then along came Brick by Brick, with plans to build on the open spaces between existing blocks.

BxB is building seven new blocks in the former open spaces and garages, varying between three and four storeys, to provide 29 two-bedroom and 28-one bed flats. Some blocks come very close to the existing homes.

No proper consultation was ever held, as is required by law, particularly in respect of how the new development might affect existing residents with mental health issues. Croydon Council’s planners overlooked this legal responsibility to its residents.

And despite many objections, Croydon Council’s planning committee gave planning permission to Croydon Council’s house-builder.

Of the 57 homes being built on public land and using public finance, 38 are intended for private sale. The other 19 were intended for unaffordable “affordable” shared ownership, but Brick by Brick has made a balls-up of that, too…

Three years on, and the nightmare for Auckland Rise residents continues, with the imposed development at least nine months behind schedule, seeing residents forced to live on a building site while their Christmas was disrupted by contractors putting in some unannounced overtime.

The three councillors, including veteran Croydon Labour figure Pat Ryan, sent their email to Seamus Quinn, the managing director of Quinn London Ltd, Brick by Brick’s contractorson the site.

The email from Ryan, Nina Degrads and Stephen Mann states:

“We are writing to you as local councillors for your site at Auckland Rise SE19.

Pat Ryan: seeking an apology and compensation for Auckland Rise residents

“We have just attended a public meeting, which your company is contractually obliged to attend, to find it unprepared, residents treated with contempt, again, and yet further slippage to the scheme with no desire to speed it up.

“Residents were advised that there would be no working over Christmas only to find this promise broken. Again. A continuation of the shoddy treatment your firm has had for our community.

“The scheme is now 40 weeks late. Residents mental health is suffering thanks to your poor project management and delivery.”

The email continued with a request that the MD should attend the next site meeting in person, “to apologise for the increased disruption, the poor service they have received over the last year from your resident liaison team and the blatant lie about Christmas working”.

It added that residents “would also like to know what you will do to recompense the community for the treatment they have had to put up with over the past two and a bit years”.

Brick by Brick issued a response where they claimed, “This has been a challenging site for a number of reasons”, all of which should have been apparent before they decided to try to squeeze something like £11million-worth of private housing into an existing estate.

Brick by Brick told the News From Crystal Palace website that the delays in the building programme at Auckland Rise had been caused by “diversions required by service providers”, so somebody else’s fault, and also because of “issues caused by some of the original Quinn sub-contractors going into receivership and poor performance by some of the other Quinn sub-contractors”. Somebody else’s fault again.

Brick by Brick skirted around the issue of compensation for the inconvenience and disruption existing residents have suffered over the past three years. Instead, the council-owned house-builders said, “We believe that our development includes a variety of improvements which will be to the significant benefit of the estate and the residents who live there.”

This is not a view necessarily shared by the residents who have had the development imposed on their homes and families.

Slowly does it

Brick by Brick’s excuse said, “Unforeseen issues are unfortunately a risk with all development projects, especially when developing on brownfield land where there are likely to be interfaces…”, interfaces, no less!

“… with a number of service providers and statutory undertakers… “, statutory undertakers? Really?

“… as well as existing residents and/or service users. In this case, programme delays have arisen for a variety of reasons, and relate to works by a variety of different parties.”

BxB say that their team “… have endeavoured to keep all residents informed throughout the process, and have worked with Quinn to address any issues which have arisen throughout the delivery programme as quickly as possible, irrespective of the cause. We do appreciate that it is not easy to live near an active construction site, and we apologise for any inconvenience caused by the works.

“We believe that our development includes a variety of improvements which will be to the significant benefit of the estate and the residents who live there including; three new play spaces on the estate for children of different ages, significant upgrades to the landscaping on the estate with new trees and wild flower areas along with new improved pathways. We are also providing a community garden for the estate as a whole to use.” The residents must be so verrry grateful.

“Additionally, we are installing electric vehicle charge points around the estate for use by any person with an electric vehicle.”

So that’s alright then…

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