Rainham MP Jon Cruddas warns of ‘Orchard Village test’ in Parliament
PUBLISHED: 15:08 16 January 2017 | UPDATED: 15:26 16 January 2017
A social housing estate, which has become notorious for its hosts of problems, was the subject of a Parliamentary debate on Friday.
Rainham and Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas raised his concerns over the weakness of the social housing regulator and the lack of action of the Housing Minister in carrying out a rapid investigation following claims of breach of building regulations at the three-year-old Orchard Village estate in Rainham.
The intensification of residents and local politicians’ campaign and the growing interest of national media on the issue have led Mr Cruddas to secure the debate in the House of Commons.
Mr Cruddas told Parliament the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) did not respond soon enough to the residents’ concerns, which started more than a year ago.
In December, the HCA published a report, which found Circle Housing, which runs the estate and is now known as Clarion Housing Group, breached consumer standards and risked serious detriment to thousands of its tenants in east London.
Housing minister MP Gavin Barwell committed to review the relationship between the Ombudsman and the regulator to ensure any serious complaints are adequately referred to the regulator.
He added the regulator had a high threshold and only intervened where there is judged to be a risk, or there has been risk, of serious harm to tenants.
After meeting with the housing group’s CEO last week, Mr Barwell said he believes Circle Housing’s merger with Affinity Sutton to form Clarion was an opportunity for the issues to be resolved.
But Mr Cruddas told the House: “Unfortunately the project has been damaged from the start by questions of building regulations.”
He added that the “failure to build homes to adequate standards” and the “failure of maintenance” particularly to vulnerable residents’ homes led to “serious allegations” of breach of building regulations and funding conditions.
Orchard Village was funded by public money with an £80million grant from central government and £28million from the Homes and Communities Agency.
Mr Cruddas warned the “historic role” of housing associations could be threatened “if we are not careful” and Orchard Village “should be a test for the future”.
Circle Housing was downgraded by the regulator for failing in its repairs service in 2015 but upgraded again last August after it reported improvement.
Clarion Housing Group has been approached for comment but previously told the Recorder a programme is in place to transform the way services are delivered at Orchard Village and surveyors are currently working on the estate to solve the problems.