Families on notorious estate say they are again dreading the winter in ‘unfinished’ homes
PUBLISHED: 07:00 26 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:08 26 September 2019
Four years after a litany of building issues came to light on a Rainham estate, some families who stayed on say they are now stuck in unfinished, drafty homes.
Orchard Village, an £80 million rebuild of the Mardyke Estate in Rainham, has hit the headlines time and again since 2015 for the poor standard of building works.
The housing association running the estate, Clarion, said remedial works were carried out last year and only a "handful of issues" had been raised by homeowners since then all of which would be dealt with as a "matter of urgency".
They launched a programme in 2017 to buy back some of the homes, but many families held on to their properties, hoping things would improve.
They said, however, this had not happened with families claiming they now feel "trapped".
Zander Hardy, 38, and Amanda Santana, 35, moved into their £335,000 house in Walden Avenue on December 21, 2015.
The couple woke the next morning to find their living room flooded by a burst pipe and freezing cold air whistling through a two-inch gap under the front door.
Three move-outs and multiple visits from builders later, the couple, who now have a baby, are still concerned about their property.
Mr Hardy said: "I think I've lost about £7,000 in earnings. I'm sick from stress and constantly having to take time off work. Dealing with this is like a second job."
A report by insurers NBC in June 2019 found contractors Willmott Dixon had used "incorrect" wall ties and there were still gaps in the cavity insulation.
The couple also raised concerns that one of the steel beams taking the weight of the house is not sat on a padstone, but on the block wall.
Padstones are used in some circumstances to prevent crushing of the walls underneath. They are not always necessary, but are present in other properties in the block. It is understood this will be investigated further.
A neighbouring house in Walden Avenue, less than five years old, has cracked from top to bottom. The cause for this is unclear.
Mr Hardy said: "I don't know what we're going to do, especially with the baby. It's coming up to four years of struggle."
In 2017 a group of 15 households spent thousands preparing a civil claim for compensation, as to date they have received just £1,000 each from Clarion.
It fell through after the homeowners' solicitor, Kalvin Chapman, was found dead in his flat in April 2018. At his inquest a coroner ruled he had taken his own life.
Families who spoke to the Recorder said they could not afford to go through the process a second time.
Shashikumar Thangarajah, 36, a telecom engineer, said even after insulation was added to their Pear Tree Lane house cold air was still finding its way in.
Wife Kavitha added: "I can't stay downstairs; it's too cold and a heater is not enough. This was my first house and I'm very sad."
A family of five in Broadis Way showed the Recorder the mould infesting their four-year-old house, which has sprung 10 leaks in three years.
They have had to move out twice for major works. The mother, 36, who asked not to be named, said: "I was pregnant and staying in a hotel. It was a nightmare.
"I can hear my little one coughing and I believe it's from the mould. We've bought new carpets and protective mats, but now we just let it be because we don't know what's going to happen.
"I feel we need to be compensated. The building wasn't finished."
Two families in apartments in Greengage Court said their heating bills were between £60 and £70 a month. The communal boiler broke down seven times in nine months between June 2017 and March 2018.
Mother-of-one Adina Genz, 30, commissioned a thermal report in 2016 that found "excessive" condensation, air leakage and air infiltration in her flat. Gaps in the window frames and skirting have been re-sealed a number of times, but the material used keeps peeling away.
She said: "It's not something you'd expect to see in a new build."
Another family in the block could not get their flat re-mortgaged in June 2018 due to the presence of flammable ACM cladding on the block.
The 30-year-old mother, who asked not to be named, said: "We're frightened here. Until the law says they have to they're not going to remove it.
"We've lost our first-time buyers' rates now. We are trapped."
Orchard Village: What happens next?
Orchard Village was billed as a dream regeneration project to replace the high-rise Mardyke Estate.
It cost £80million to build, including £31m of public money, and phase four - being built by a different contractor, Hill - is now well under way.
Jon Cruddas, the MP for Dagenham and Rainham, said he would be arranging an urgent meeting with Clarion in the coming weeks to discuss the latest concerns.
He said: "Orchard Village has become a flagship example of how not to build. The initial development has raised a wider concern about building standards and regulations, something I have spoken about in parliament on more than one occasion.
"When Clarion took over the site I was hopeful, and over the last few months a lot of progress has been made.
"Developments of this size demand greater scrutiny from the local authority. There are a lot of homes planned for the south of the borough and in light of Orchard Village there is an onus on the council to ensure corners aren't being cut."
All phases of the scheme received approval from Havering Council and NHBC warranty cover but this does not guarantee the standards were met.
The Mayor of Havering, Michael Deon Burton, said: "Orchard Village cost taxpayers' money. This was meant to be a flagship regeneration of an estate an all we have ended up with in Havering is a local embarrassment."
Clarion Housing has re-iterated that it will look into all concerns raised by residents about the state of their builds.
This housing association said it had commissioned a consultant to examine fuel usage on the estate which found it was "not considered a high energy use development".
It addressed issues with the communal boiler at Greengage Court last year. Other residents at Greengage Court, Clarion added, had been able to re-mortgage despite concerns around the cladding.
A spokesman said: "In line with their contractual responsibility, Willmott Dixon had by the end of last year concluded all of the remedial works at Orchard Village.
"Since completing the works, only a handful of issues have been raised by homeowners, all of which have either been resolved or are being investigated.
"Should our residents wish to raise any concerns we will look into them as a matter of urgency."
The housing association said builders had had problems gaining access to Mr Hardy's property to investigate further
Willmott Dixon, which built the estate, did not respond on the record to a request for comment. It is understood the contractor believes all remedial works have been completed but is still committed to resolving outstanding issues.
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