A controversial house-building firm that boasted £1 billion profit off the back of the help to buy scheme has written to 1,000 residents – warning that their properties may be a fire hazard.
Persimmon Homes been accused of putting lives at risk by skimping on fire safety measures after contacting hundreds of people living in new builds.
The homes may have been built without essential barriers to slow the spread of fires, putting many lives could be at risk.
The issue was first highlighted after a fire broke out and was able to spread from house to house on an estate in Exeter, Devon in April last year.
A breach of building regulations
Paul Frost, a resident of the Greenacres estate in Exeter, made the shocking discovery after watching how quickly the blaze spread.
With over 30 years experience in the building trade, Paul entered the roof of his own property to look for the fire safety barriers.
But he was shocked to learn they were missing and approached the National House Building Council (NHBC).
They described the lack of barriers as an “imminent risk to health and safety”, and a breach of building regulations.
Persimmon Homes promptly rectified the issue at Mr Frost’s home within 24 hours, but now they have sent out a letter to other homeowners across the South West Region.
Possibly a nationwide problem
It is feared the issue could be a nationwide problem, and six sites in total have already been identified by a whistle-blower as having failed health and safety inspections.
They include Devon sites in Paignton, Ivybridge, and two in Exeter, ones in Yeovil and Taunton in Somerset and one in Shaftesbury in Dorset.
It is understood that than 1,000 people across multiple sites – including another in Truro, Cornwall – have now received a letter from Persimmon saying their properties would have to be checked.
The letter stated, “We are conducting a check of roof spaces on your development to make sure the roof space cavity has been installed correctly following a recent inspection within the development.”
One resident in Truro, Cornwall said he feared his house “is potentially a massive fire risk”.
He said, “I’m extremely concerned because I have a family, including two children, living in this house.
The homeowner, who did not want to be named, said recent inspections of his five year old house revealed that “a vast amount” of fire barriers were missing.
Another resident who identified a problem was Samuel Maule who lives at one of the affected Persimmon Homes development in Exeter, Devon. He said he only noticed the problem after his 14 foot African Rock Python escaped into the walls.
He said, “My snake managed to get through a gap which should not have been there at the back of my toilet and it managed to get up the wall and through the eaves and into a space above between my flat and the one above.
“Can you imagine if there had been a fire? It would have spread quite quickly. My snake going missing did me and the other residents a favour as we would have not known the flats were dangerous.”
An issue with the building sector as a whole?
Mr Frost, who has carried out his own investigation, said that he fears that it is not just an issue with Persimmon but with the sector as a whole.
He said, “The way forward is to encourage better quality construction and certainly the installation of heat sensors in roof voids, as a minimum outcome of this horrific situation of risking peoples lives for what can only be seen as better profits.
“I want to try to make this a national campaign of some of sorts, to at least help to reduce the possibility of loss of life.”
Fire safety consultant Alan Cox said blazes “could easily travel from one compartment or property to another” if there were missing barriers “at roof level”.
Persimmon’s website says it builds 16,000 new homes a year.
Persimmon Homes said they were taking the situation seriously and that properties were being checked.
A spokesperson said, “To date more than 400 properties have been inspected.
“However, while investigations are live we are not in a position to advise of the results.”
Persimmon is at risk of seeing its lucrative help to buy contract removed, after showing pre-tax profits of over £1 billion last year.
Nearly half of those sales were to people using the help to buy scheme.