Residents are accusing the council’s house-building company of underhand tactics and of breaking the covid-19 lockdown, writes our overdevelopment correspondent, writes BARRATT HOLMES, in the first of a two-part report
Much of the rest of the country might be on lockdown for coronavirus, but there’s no stopping the stubborn persistence – or is it financial desperation? – of Brick by Brick, the council-owned, loss-making house-builders (total purpose-built council homes built since 2015: three).
For them, building continues uninterrupted, particularly if it happens to be needed to finish work on some of their long-delayed sites under the excuse “it would be at a significant business risk to close them”.
Even where Brick by Brick said last week that they would, belatedly, observe the covid-19 lockdown, workers have been observed on-site and the company’s representatives say that they could break the embargo against all but essential work as early as next week.
Inside Croydon has learned that at Montpelier Road and Kingsdown Avenue in Purley Oaks might be back in action as soon as next Tuesday, even though the government has not changed its advice about observing the self-isolating lockdown.
But then, Brick by Brick cocked a deaf ear to the pleas of government, the Mayor of London and health chiefs for more than a week and carried on regardless.
Work continued regardless at 15 Brick by Brick sites for a whole week after the Prime Minister announced the coronavirus lockdown and an end to non-essential work to avoid spreading the deadly disease. Their contractors’ workers continued to use public transport to get to and from work, and at sites around the borough, they were seen to be carrying on with complete disregard for the social distancing rules.
Eventually, on March 30, Brick by Brick announced it would finally join the national lockdown, though at “a handful of sites”, where “it would be at a significant business risk to close them”, they would still keep working. It is always good to know what the priorities are for this council-owned business.
The Montpelier Road site was to be one of 11 to halt work as part of the public health efforts to contain the spread of covid-19.
Henry, the lead contractors at Montpelier Road, have been working on the site for the past two years, where they are turning what used to be a modest-sized piece of green public space into 34 homes, mainly flats.
There has been exceedingly slow progress with the development, which ran into problems almost from the start when neighbours complained that old garages were demolished without proper controls or precautions to prevent asbestos dust being released.
And last week, even after Brick by Brick announced that they would shut down the site during the covid-19 emergency, residents observed workmen at Montpelier Road days after it was supposed to be under lockdown.
And now Brick by Brick wants the workers back on-site and to press on with the long-delayed project. The contractors are to conduct an inspection this Friday (yes, Good Friday, a bank holiday, so desperate are they to proceed), with a view to getting builders back on site early next week, despite the lockdown.
“The site will remain closed until April 10,” a note from Brick by Brick advised yesterday, “when they will be re-assessed as per the … covid-19 procedures document which is in line with both government and PHE [Public Health England] guidance.
“If the sites are still unable to meet these requirements they will remain shut, otherwise they will re-open in April 13 with strict controls in place.”
According to one resident, “Nothing has changed since the Prime Minister called for the lockdown on March 23. If we do see ‘strict controls in place’ on that work site, it will be the first time in two years.
“They were working on the site for a week with no masks, no social distancing, and then they were travelling to and from work. We’ve been told today that 14 London bus drivers working for TfL have died as a result of coronavirus – might their lives have been saved if building site workers had not continued to travel to work when everyone else went into lockdown?”
According to Brick by Brick, the builders observed on site last week – after all work was supposed to have ceased at Montpelier Road – were a cladding contractor “for the purpose of securing works only”. They managed such a bang-up job of “securing” it, that there was a break-in on the site at the weekend.
- Read the second part of this report here: Council’s house-builders give just 24 hours’ notice of consultation on mainly private housing scheme
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