Housebuilder appoints Arup to oversee construction fire safety issues

Listed housebuilder Persimmon has appointed consultant Arup to independently assess if it has done enough to address fire safety issues identified in its new-build homes.

The firm has responded to a damning independent review of build quality issues, published this morning, by saying it is devising a group construction policy including appropriate supervision and training of construction staff.

Persimmon also sought to cast blame for the problem across the industry, telling Housing Today that the cavity barrier problem was “industry wide”.

>> Report: Persimmon in ‘systemic nationwide’ fire safety failure

The independent report, by QC Stephanie Barwise, found the UK’s third-biggest housebuilder had a “systemic nationwide” problem with missing or incorrectly installed cavity barriers on its timber-frame properties. Cavity barriers are critical to slowing the spread of fires, with the lack of barriers cited as crucial in the recent fire in a residential block in Worcester Park, south London.

In a response to the findings, Persimmon said it had appointed Arup as a fire engineer to ensure it had “correctly identified the extent and nature of the problem in existing properties, and is taking the necessary steps to rectify any issues”, while also ensuring that homes built in the future were fire-safe.

It committed to “take all appropriate action in connection with the results of its own internal assurance work and the recommendations of the fire engineer”.

Persimmon said it had undertaken inspections in 16,000 affected properties since first identifying the cavity barrier problem on homes in October 2018. It said: “Persimmon fully accepts that there has been a failing in the overall supervision and inspection regime which includes its own internal processes.”

In a statement to Housing Today, Persimmon highlighted its improved performance under the Home Builders’ Federation’s five-star ratings system for housebuilders, despite the fact the report made clear this should not be considered a measurement of quality.

The spokesperson said: “Persimmon commissioned the independent review to provide a transparent and objective review of the action we are taking to improve areas such as build quality. The wide range of measures we have introduced together with the action we are proposing are intended to ensure that build quality problems are addressed.

The spokesperson added: “The cavity barrier issue has been widely reported as an industry-wide problem, with other housebuilders experiencing similar issues.

Asked if Persimmon had attempted to “bury” the report by releasing it in the run-up to Christmas without a press release or formal announcement, the spokesperson said only that: “When Persimmon commissioned the review in April, we said clearly that the report findings would be published in the final quarter of 2019.”