Friday 4 November 2022

SCANDAL UPDATE: Brent Council's remediation costs for Granville New Homes, puchased from Higgins for £17.1m, could rise to £22m plus VAT. Number of residents due to be decanted during works is uncertain.


The buildings known collectively as Granville New Homes sold by builders Higgins to Brent Council for £17.1m now look likely to cost Brent Council taxpayers  £20m-£22m to bring up to standard. Market conditions, including the cost of materials means that officers warn the council that costs could rise further. If more people have to be decanted than allowed for whilst works go on, that will also add to costs.

The whole thing is a scandal and a nightmare for residentts and tenants in which Higgins seem to have got away scot free. They have even been given additional work by Brent Council:


The report going to Cabinet on November 14th clearly outlines the poor quality of the build:

4.0  Survey Findings

4.1  There are two main issues with the blocks. These are the water ingress at various locations in the blocks and uncertainty about the fire rating of the external and internal walls and floors. These two issues are interlinked as they are generally related to the same construction elements. Thus, both issues will be resolved in tandem.

Fire Safety

4.2  The fire risk assessment for the blocks, and the subsequent intrusive investigations have identified that the construction is poor. The blocks have two distinct methods of cladding. One is formed of cementitious panels and the other is of brick effect panels. Both of these appear to have a variety of insulation materials, including expanded polystyrene, mineral wool and void spaces. Because of this, the fire rating of the blocks is uncertain. However, they will certainly not comply with current building regulations and are unlikely to have complied with the class 0 requirements at the time of construction.

4.3  The panels and insulation will require to be removed and replaced with A1 or A2 rated materials to comply with building regulations.

Water Penetration

4.4  The properties have suffered from water penetration for many years. Attempts at remediation have been unsuccessful.

4.5  Ridge Consultants were commissioned to undertake an intrusive survey of the blocks and to identify any significant areas of defect.

4.6  Ridge’s findings are as follows:-

o The external envelopes on these buildings have been constructed from relatively inexpensive materials and there is evidence of poor-quality workmanship.

o There is a lack of information available, relating to the original build and it is clear that what has been installed on site has not worked.

o The doors and windows are suffering rot and timber decay, which is not, a defect readily associated with buildings of this age.

o The horizontal surfaces to the external envelopes (roofs, balconies and walkways) have been poorly finished.

o A further note is that none of the components that have been installed should have failed because of age.

4.7  Ridge’s recommendations are as follows:

o   ·  The defects noted in relation to the buildings’ external envelopes are not easily repairable in a way that will offer a guaranteed and satisfactory solution. On this basis, the only available option is to replace the facades, roof coverings and balcony waterproofing systems.

o   ·  All specified systems and products will have long insurance backed guarantees. All designers and the main contractor will provide warranties. The Council’s legal team will review these before making any appointments.


4.8  A key to being able to complete these works without decanting residents is being able to work without disturbing the internal blockwork leaf of the system. It is likely that once the cladding is removed, the blockwork wall behind it will remain intact. This may mean that not all residents require being decanted. Only vulnerable residents may require decanting.

Energy Efficiency

4.9  As a consequence of the fire safety works specification. The energy efficiency rating of the properties will also be improved.

5.0  Works undertaken to Date

5.1  It was identified that the blocks have suffered from a number of defects, which included fire safety issues, water penetration, window and cladding defects.

5.2  In addition to the above the Fire Brigade served FWH with Enforcement Notices, which led to a waking watch to be introduced in the blocks.

5.3  A comprehensive communal and dwelling interlinked fire alarm system has been installed into the properties. This has now been set up with alarm monitoring arrangements.

5.4  In addition, combustible materials have been removed from communal areas and additional fire stopping has being installed. The waking watch has been removed as the alarm monitoring has been commissioned and now in use.

5.5  The fire alarm system will be monitored in order that any suspected smoke or fire is alerted to the London Fire Brigade.

6.0  Budget Requirements

6.1  The nature of the works is significant and therefore costly. The estimated cost of the works and associated works and consultancy services is £19,870,804. This includes costs associated with supporting more vulnerable residents such as respite care and temporary decanting, inflation and a contingency. The works are high risk and the market is currently extremely volatile in terms of costs and pricing, hence the large contingency. In addition, it is prudent at this stage to make provision for the potential decant of a significant number of residents who may not be vulnerable but who may not be able to stay in their homes during some or all of the works. Therefore, Cabinet is requested to allocate £22M plus VAT to this project.

6.2 The difference in cost from the 6 December Cabinet report is due to ongoing uncertain market cost conditions, and the addition of VAT. Some allowance has been made for ongoing building cost inflation. However, due to several uncertainties in the marketplace and world events, there may be further building cost increases. Cabinet will be advised of this should this become apparent during the course of the project.


Brent Executive Plans including Wembley and South Kilburn when there was a Liberal Democrat-Conservative Coalition LINK

Impact Needs Assessment completed by Robert Johnson, then Housing and Community Care Project Manager, South Kilburn, now a Labour councillor.  LINK

Reponse to a Freedom of Information Request re the South Kilburn Redevelopment LINK


Anonymous said...

This is an absolute scandal and has been from the start. They acquired it and got BHP to become the landlord. They put it up for a design award ( beware the Morland site). It’s been a nightmare since. They must have realised that there were issues with it from the start but probably buried them much like they are doing with a lot of the New Council Homes Programme. Do they not have a duty to demonstrate value for money. What about all the other issues that the residents have had to put up with. It should never have been allowed to be built. It clearly joins onto grade 2 listed buildings and doesn’t fit in. It is poor design and poor quality and there should be an enquiry into how it was allowed.

Pete Firmin said...

And the builders of this scandal have been given further contracts by Brent Council......

Philip Grant said...

As Anonymous (4 November at 21:39) said: Brent put Granville New Homes up for a design award - 'beware the Morland site'!

The architect's design for Brent's 1 Morland Gardens scheme was the winning entry in the mixed-use development category of a planning competition in September 2020. See:

The Report to the Cabinet meeting in January 2020 which approved the scheme said of the new building:

'This facility will meet with the BREEAM Excellent standard and incorporate the latest sustainable approach to building technologies, construction materials and procurement methods.'

'At 35m, this will be one of the tallest buildings in the UK with a structure of Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT). CLT uses far less embodied carbon than either steel or concrete significantly reducing our carbon footprint and
dramatically speeds up the build time. Our building also uses an innovative
hybrid steel reinforcement in its fire-proof external wall to ensure that it is fully compliant with recent changes in legislation.'

'It is a mixed-use building that will use innovative thermal storage techniques which allows the excess energy produced by the adult education building to heat water and power utilities in the residential towers. Air source heat pumps will power this system and are far more fuel efficient than traditional gas or oil boilers.'

This all sounds very good, but how well will these innovative ideas actually work in practice?

And that question is particularly relevant when the former Strategic Director for Regeneration persuaded the Cabinet to rush through a contract for this project with an unrealistically low bid (in the present financial circumstances) which could well see "savings" being made and corners being cut, in order to stay within budget.

Just like at Granville New Homes, in fact ...!

[P.S. The report to Cabinet in January 2020, by the previous Strategic Director for Regeneration (the one before the one who left last summer), said that the project should be completed by July 2022 - it has not even started yet - and hopefully never will, because it is badly flawed.]

Anonymous said...

Brent Councillors understand so little of the real world, and their yes sir senior officers even less. The finger in the dyke has for too long been the CE who time after time has had to correct the pathetic cabinet members who are there because they support the Leader.

Philip Grant said...

Further to my comment about the "innovative" design of Brent's proposed development at 1 Morland Gardens, here is some information about Cross-Laminated Timber / CLT from a 2021 article on the internet:-

'Cross laminated timber (CLT) is a relatively new development in the field of timber building. It grew out of our ability to glue thin strips of timber together to make strong beams, known as glue-laminated or glulam beams, and uses the same method to engineer whole-wall panels that are both strong and beautiful.

It is still some way from being mainstream in the UK.'

'CLT is formed of kiln-dried spruce or pine boards which are laid on top of each other at 90° (three, five, seven or nine layers depending on structural requirements), coated with a layer of polyurethane adhesive and subjected to immense hydraulic pressure to create large, stiff, dimensionally stable panels.

These timber panels, which can measure up to 3.5m in width and 20m in length, depending on specification, can be used to create the complete superstructure of a building. CLT panels are precision cut by CNC machines (from 3D CAD drawings) and delivered to site to be installed BY SPECIALIST CLT INSTALLERS (my capital letters).'

'Currently, the majority of CLT is manufactured in Austria.'

'There are currently no CLT manufacturers in the UK, which means all CLT builds here will import directly from Europe.'

'It is also worth considering the transport costs when designing with CLT.'

'A CLT build can be clad with the same external materials as any other build method. As most CLT residential buildings will be wrapped in insulation (up to 200mm depending on the desired U value), this needs to be considered when choosing the fixing method for the cladding.'

An award-winning design, on paper, but many things that could go wrong if the 1 Morland Gardens scheme goes ahead, and is not built properly.

Anonymous said...

Granville Cr.p Homes more like and the problems were ignored by Butt, McLennan, T.Tatler, Hirani and the rest of his sycophantic team until too late to do anything. Perhaps there's some connection with the developer who keep getting more work from Brent?

Anonymous said...

As if… sell them on and use the £20m to build new houses somewhere else. This is an example of spending other peoples money again.

Anonymous said...

Better idea - this block will house 10 people at the most. Instead give 20 vulnerable people 1m each. Even better idea, give 40 vulnerable people 500,000 each rather than the developer any more money.

Anonymous said...

Surely there is some compensation due from the builders/developers?

But who signed off on the finished flats when they were built? Was it Brent Council's building control department?

Anonymous said...

That caption under the Higgins details for their Stonebridge development for Brent Council is a lie.

There is no "new public open space linking the two sites". That space was there before the development started, and they have built over the grassy space with trees which used to continue it from Shakespeare Avenue to Hillside!!!

Anonymous said...

Very worrying that Brent is complicit in this and risking lives. They don’t seem to care as long as they can tick of the items on their agenda so come election time they can say we did this and we did that. And the majority of the electorate will not be aware of these issues. Just like I was not until I heard about Wembley Matters a few months ago.

David Walton said...

BIG thank you to Martin for highlighting this 'remediation, remediation, remediation' of new locks bad build quality crisis. Granville homes built on park scale Granville Road Public Open Space (days when it was South Kilburn two green lungs), is not the only designed and built to be costly/ problematic housing block site in South Kilburn zone.

Granville homes are in the vale, an uncharted river and major spring feeding to the nearby River Westbourne could easily be a GH site problem as well. Retro-fit GH for net zero?

Regarding other Brent new colonial blocks, the anonymous owner to tenant's (left holding the bad build baby's costs) relationship is set to change legally with all entities that own UK properties required to register with Companies House and provide details of the beneficial owners by 31st January 2023. Of 138,000 titles only 1,000 have registered so far. Groups of buildings (estates as South Kilburn Estate is in fact) can be owner bundled as one title at the Land Registry, so it's many more than 138,000 colonial properties.

Post- Grenfell, government and other agencies are trying to get these estate owners responsible for 'remediation, remediation, remediation' de-construction block by design and part re-builds massive costs. Leasehold reform Part 2 meant to be actioned by this Parliament should also give some tenants greater consumer rights.

When owners start paying remediation costs this should change the current build poor not quality agenda. Owners need to be motivated to become as self-interested as tenants are in well-built new homes. Way to go there.

David Walton said...

South Kilburn two park scale green lungs 2000 is no more....

Useful to also point out that Granville Homes was by council built on 3/4rs of the Granville Public Open Space. And Brent Local Plan 2022 declares the final 1/4 refurbished 2010 as 'pocket park' a new 'site allocation. Open Space council badly build on it all, then its trade to market land?

Towards South Kilburn no green lungs 2041?

Brent wants to council build on South Kilburn Public Open Space woodland area first 2022, again bit by bit as for London Plan all SKPOS is grey land use.