The man who got Persimmon to rebuild his new house

A man was left so frustrated by the poor finish on his new build home, he forced Persimmon to tear down the walls and rebuild them from scratch.

Laura Clements  www.walesonline.co.uk

Andrew Higgs bought his five-bedroom family home in June 2019 but was so disappointed in the standard of workmanship he launched into a battle with the house-builder.

He endured months of negotiations before the national firm moved him and his young family into temporary accommodation while it replaced every single external brick.

Mr Higgs said problems started appearing from the day he moved in to his Charles Church house in Old St Mellons, Cardiff with his wife and two children, aged two and five.

From the off, Mr Higgs made his dissatisfaction known to Charles Church, which is an upmarket house builder owned by Persimmon, but says he was repeatedly fobbed off.

“There was a long list of snags from day one and each week we would notice additional issues of poor workmanship,” Mr Higgs explained.

While some of the issues were reworked “multiple times”, Mr Higgs said it took more than a year of discussions before Charles Church agreed to knock the walls down and rebuild them brick by brick.

“Our main concern was the external brickwork which we felt was of a very poor standard aesthetically,” Mr Higgs said. It included inconsistent mortar joints, chipped and damaged bricks and wonky mortar beds.

The full list of issues he claims ran into the hundreds, including visible plasterboard joints, cracks appearing in the walls and ceilings, damaged roof joists and drainage issues to the front garden.

It was only after contacting one of the directors directly that Mr Higgs was able to get any response, claimed the 41-year-old dad of two.

Charles Church commissioned an independent survey by CD Grey and Mr Higgs walked the director for Charles Church East Wales around his home pointing out the outstanding issues.

While the house builder confirmed many of the issues, Mr Higgs says it “downplayed” them. The CD Grey report said that while there was no indication of any structural movement there were notable aesthetic issues.

“They did accept all the issues and looked to get them addressed but the brickwork I felt was so poor I insisted it all be replaced in line with building codes of practice,” Mr Higgs said.

“Eventually they agreed to replace all four external walls or potentially compensate.”

Even so, despite the verbal agreement, it took several months before builders arrived on site to begin the reconstruction. Even then, Charles Church insisted on a further survey, this time from the NHBC – the National House Building Council.

Mr Higgs’ concerns were confirmed again and the report, carried out in May 2020, advised repairing the defects.

“There are areas where the builder hasn’t complied with all of our Technical Requirements,” it said, although it fell short of instructing a complete rebuild.

Mr Higgs was insistent: “I kept on and would not back down on the agreement that was previously made, replace the walls and rebuild as per the codes of practice.

“A number of internal rework snags they had already done were of a poor quality and we were extremely reluctant to allow partial patch repairs to the external walls, especially when they already agreed previously.”

Eventually, Charles Church backed down and agreed to replace all four external walls in October 2020. In a letter sent to Mr Higgs, it said despite his “unreasonable” request, they would rebuild all four walls and elevations. The action had been agreed as a “gesture of goodwill” it added.

Exhausted from all the negotiations, Mr Higgs instructed a solicitor to manage proceedings. While Persimmon agreed to find the family alternative accommodation and commissioned Fox Moving and Storage to manage the temporary move, Mr Higgs says it was far from smooth.

“During the pandemic I had to move my young family out of our home,” It was just weeks before Christmas and Mr Higgs was desperate to get his family back home for the festive period.

“We were issued a six-week completion date, which was then pushed out to eight weeks, then we were notified that all works was complete on December 1 but in fact was nowhere near complete and Fox refused to move items back until December 5,” Mr Higgs said.

When they did eventually get home, Mr Higgs claims the construction work had led to damage throughout his property, including his carpets, his CCTV cameras, the alarm system and the large family fridge freezer.

Persimmon reimbursed the family for the alleged damage but Mr Higgs says his CCTV cameras captured workers for Fox Moving and Storage being careless with his property and taking personal military belongings out of boxes.

Fox Moving and Storage said it had spoken to one of its young porters, who was told his behaviour was “careless” and “not in keeping” with its standards of customer care.

It denied any breach of confidentiality or privacy and said: “There were no damages attributed to Fox and no insurance claim was made, confirming this position. In our view this confirms a careful and professional service was performed in the moving of hundreds of items of household furniture and effects in two separate phases.”

It added it had examined the CCTV and Mr Higgs’ allegations were unsubstantiated. It said: “Fragile items were not thrown down the stairs. The loft ladder was flimsy and therefore items were passed and sometimes dropped to the floor. The young porter could be accused of not being careful and there is a degree of poor manual handling.

“The young porter was interviewed and told his behaviour was careless and not in keeping with our high standards of customer care.

“A written apology was made directly to Mr Higgs.”

It took several weeks for Persimmon to take the old walls down and rebuild them to a better standard (Image: Andrew Higgs)

Every single external brick was replaced (Image: Andrew Higgs)

Mr Higgs is adamant some issues remain “outstanding” to this day.

“Having returned we’ve noticed most cracking issues have reappeared and are now suspicious there may be movement occurring with the timber frames,” he said.

In a letter to Mr Higgs after the works had been completed, Persimmon’s legal team wrote: “I can confirm all minor snagging issues you have raised have been noted by the site team already and are in hand. The cracking you report appears to be entirely normal settlement and are to be attended to shortly.

“With regard dates for the expected completion of works, it is not unreasonable for those to be extended, on notice to you due to matters beyond our control. Communication with you remained open, you were always informed of the anticipated dates and the progress of works which were carried out on your insistence. You remained in alternative accommodation at our cost for the duration.”

“I own two local businesses,” he said. “If I treated my customers the way Persimmon do I would be out of business within a week.

“If you purchase a new product you expect it to be of an acceptable standard. We were expecting our new build Charles Church house to be of a high standard but it has taken 18 months to get it to an acceptable standard.

“My family has endured immense stress and upheaval over the past 18 months, no thanks to having to move home during the pandemic and be given two completion dates that were not honoured.

“Persimmon repeatedly remind us we are having ‘gestures of goodwill’ but these are all issues that should have been right in the first place.”

A spokesman for Charles Church East Wales said: “We have been in constant dialogue with Mr Higgs to try to address his concerns. We have at all times endeavoured to ensure Mr Higgs was happy with his home. We therefore agreed with him that we would go beyond the specific actions identified by the independent assessment of the property to resolve the situation.

“We will continue to liaise with Mr Higgs through his solicitor and remain committed to ensuring all customers are pleased with their homes.”

And now the spoof trailer for….

The Political Thriller of the Decade

You might have think you’re read enough about the Handforth Parish Councilt by now but if you haven’t seen this, then you really do need to watch one more thing. Because it’s magnificent. (Especially for those living in Honiton)

Jackie Weaver: The distraction we didn’t know we needed

It was the distraction the nation didn’t know it needed: a poor-quality recording of an online meeting of a Cheshire parish council, called by two councillors “following the refusal of the council chairman to call such a meeting”.

 ‘Good on her’: how Jackie Weaver became an internet star 

Helen Pidd www.theguardian.com

Normally such a congress would struggle to raise a quorum, let alone an audience of millions. Yet against all odds, December’s Extraordinary Meeting of Handforth parish council’s planning and environment committee went viral on Thursday night.

It made a star of its doughty clerk, Jackie Weaver, who dealt with argumentative male councillors by kicking them off the Zoom call and barely blinking when being yelled at to “read the standing orders! Read them and understand them!”

She kept her cool when one man dismissed her by saying “you don’t know what you’re talking about” and ignored the gales of laughter from the remaining men when a female councillor asked them to show Weaver some respect (she soon got her revenge with another remorseless click of her eviction button).

By Friday morning, Vice had produced a 3,300-word analysis of the fateful meeting, T-shirts were available saying “You have no authority here Jackie Weaver” – the words of the council chairman, Barry Tolver, before she booted him off – and Weaver was holding court on BBC’s Woman’s Hour.

Weaver – employed not by Handforth parish council but the Cheshire Association of Local Councils, apparently parachuted in to run the meeting amid accusations of poor behaviour by councillors – told the BBC she felt proud to have stayed calm in the face of what she described as bullying.

“It’s harsh to take some pleasure from that, but I’m afraid when you are being bullied, if you can see that the other person has lost it, then there is the sense of: ‘I did OK there because I managed to hold it together,’” she said.

“There is an element of bullying and bad behaviour in local councils and a lot of us are working very hard, and that includes central government, to try and do something about that.” She said at least 99.99% of parish council meetings were not that dramatic. “They are often less exciting than we might hope,” she said.

But Tolver was unrepentant, saying he had a “reason to be angry”. He told the PA news agency that Weaver “had no status to speak other than when invited”, adding: “I cannot think of any other council meeting anywhere, that was taken over by an unqualified member of the public like this … Removing half the councillors from the meeting denied half of the voters of the village from being represented – it was an appalling attack on their democratic rights.”

Quite how this niche meeting ended up being dissected across all mainstream TV channels and radio stations is largely down to the determination of a few Handforth residents who were appalled at the conduct on show.

For the past two weeks, Anika York had been trying and failing to get media interest in the affair, wanting a wider audience for what she calls a “communication breakdown” between Handforth parish council members, which she thinks have been getting in the way of helping the community.

“When personality clashes and belligerence get in the way of the council doing positive things for a community, their approach has to be questioned,” she said.

Perhaps because the original recording was one hour and 20 minutes long, it was only when comedian Steven Morgan edited it down to 18 minutes and put a terrible bit of Clip Art on the front that it began to go viral.

Morgan’s montage caught the attention of Shaan Ali, a young Labour member who says he likes to look for videos of council meetings in idle moment: “All of these videos are usually absolutely hilarious – old councillors struggling to use Zoom and amazing arguments.”

He shared it with a group chat of other political activists, and one, Janine Mason, cut it to 30 seconds: perfect for a 2021 attention span. Add to that a boring Thursday night with all the pubs shut, and a viral sensation was born.

The TV presenter and novelist Richard Osman tweeted: “Am busily writing Jackie Weaver into the next Thursday Murder Club novel,” while the Radio 1 Breakfast presenter Greg James described it as “The best British comedy in decades.”

It was left to women in public life to point out the obvious: “Beyond the humour, the behaviour Jackie Weaver experienced is common place in all levels of politics,” said the Labour MP Rosena Allin-Khan. “Good on her for sticking to it, but people doing their best in local politics, especially women, shouldn’t have to put up with that.”

We have an over emphasis on bringing more tourism to the South West.

Owl is raising this comment on employment priorities , made in response to the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership’s remarks about investment in the South West to a full post,

It was made by Peter Hill Labour’s contender for Tiverton West division in May’s council election. This lies outside Owl’s normal hunting ground but the views expressed resonate with Owl and offset the predominant caravan park culture of East Devon. 

[This post, first seen on EDW, is being used as the basis of a press release]. 

I think that there is an over emphasis on bringing more tourism to the South West. Unfortunately tourism brings lower paid service sector jobs and like all of the service sector has proven to be fragile during the pandemic.

The tourism sector has benefited from staycations during the pandemic but as soon as people that can afford to holiday in the UK can ski, visit France in the summer and attend concerts the demand for staycations will probably drop significantly. It will become “so last year” and I am sure “staycations” will become a feature of stand up comedy routines especially if the weather in summer 2021 doesn’t live up to summer 2020.

Fortunately the South West has always been a highly productive area in terms of food and drink production plus manufactured goods. these are the industries we should build on to bring highly skilled, rewarding and better paid jobs to the south West.

We should discourage home workers from moving from other regions to the South West as they push up housing prices and consume local public services without bringing jobs to the area or contributing to the local economy or participate in the social activities of their local communities as much as people that work locally in manufacturing, agriculture, food and drink production or local services.

Regards,

Peter Hill Labour Party Tiverton West and director of a local manufacturing company

Boris Johnson plans reform of the NHS in England

Boris Johnson is planning to reverse controversial reforms of the NHS in England, a leaked document reveals.

Goodbye Lansley? – Owl

BBC News www.bbc.co.uk

The changes would see a reduced role for the private sector, while a system of contracts being put out to tender, with health groups sometimes competing against each other, would be scrapped.

The draft policy paper also says the health secretary would take more direct control over NHS England.

It would sweep away reforms introduced by David Cameron’s government in 2012.

The 2012 Health and Social Care Act, brought in by the coalition government led by then-Conservative Prime Minister Mr Cameron, alongside his Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, put NHS England at arms length from the secretary of state.

It gave more control over budgets to GPs and other clinicians, while greater competition with the private sector was encouraged.

However, the changes were controversial and attracted criticism from opposition MPs and professional bodies representing doctors, nurses and other NHS workers.

The government’s draft White Paper says there will be “enhanced powers of direction for the government” to “ensure that decision makers overseeing the health system at a national level are effectively held to account”.

The document was published by health news website Health Policy Insight.

Instead of a system which required competitive tendering for contracts – sometimes involving private companies – the paper says the NHS and local authorities will be left to run services and told to collaborate with each other.

What is described as needless bureaucracy standing in the way of NHS organisations will be removed under the plans.

There will also be more focus on GPs, hospitals and social care services working together to improve patient care.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said changes were being considered to drive forward the integration of health and care services and details would be set out in due course.

Stuart Hughes off to a racing start – how many Pinocchios on potholes?

Remember:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2020/05/01/fix-potholes-while-roads-are-empty-councils-are-told/

Problematic potholes in Devon increased by 10,000 last year

The number of potholes reported in Devon has halved, but the number of repairs increased by more than 9,000 last year.

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com 

In 2020, Devon County had 28,600 potholes reported, compared with 50,309 the previous year.

However, it repaired 59,553, which includes potholes identified through assessment following public reports and potholes found on routine safety inspections and comprises safety, non-safety and pothole patches.

The number in 2019 was 50,309. The previous year 72,338 repairs were carried out.

A pothole which previously caused trouble in Bampton Street (Image: Lewis Clarke)

Last year, 872 compensation claims for damage caused by potholes. The council paid out £113,320 due to personal injury and damage to vehicle claims, but not all the payments related to incidents which occurred in 2020.

Only around a quarter of potholes reported to the council last year were repaired. Each pothole has to meet its required intervention criteria. In 2020, there were 11,343 assessed as having safety defects which is around 39 per cent. The number in 2019 was 9,765.

Targets are set when potholes must be repaired by after they have been assessed. In 2020, 53,640 – 90 per cent – met the target time. The number for the previous year was 43,099.

The average number of calendar days to repair potholes instructed in 2020 was around a week.

The longest wait for a repair was 170 days which DCC says was due to an ‘integration error’ between its reporting system and its contractors system.

Once the error was discovered it was repaired in four days.

It is currently estimated that there are some 42,675 miles of UK roads classed as being in poor structural condition, costing an estimated £11.14 billion to bring them up to a level which they could be maintained cost effectively going forward, according to Asphalt Industry Alliance.

Potholes are continuing to cause problems across Devon’s roads this year and not all residents are happy with how promptly they are dealt with.

DCC declined to make a comment.

Potholes can be reported to the council via its website. It will repair potholes that are deeper than 40mm, wider than 300mm and have a vertical edge.

A new report from the UK’s largest road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart, discovered that three in four motorists (75 per cent) now perceive potholes to be a bigger issue for road users than they were three years ago, and more of an issue than driver distraction and traffic congestion.

Its annual Safety Culture Report, which surveyed more than 2,000 motorists, also discovered that around nine in ten (89 per cent) drivers have been affected by potholes over the last year.

Meanwhile, just over one in three (31 per cent) drivers had changed their route to avoid a pothole with more than half (54 per cent) having had to steer away or brake hard to avoid impact and damage.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “The pothole situation on UK roads has now become much more than just irritating; it’s a significant threat to personal safety.

“We simply can’t have vehicles swerving into oncoming traffic or slamming on their brakes without warning to avoid them. Deteriorating roads also put pedestrians and cyclists at greater risk.

“It is clearly a sign of the times when motorists perceive potholes to be a bigger growing concern to them than drink driving and texting.

“While the statistics show that the devastating impacts of using a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or using a mobile phone when driving still remain, it does highlight that it is time for government to take potholes seriously and fix the UK’s road network.”