We live next to brand new £850k properties which will be torn down after builders found faulty foundations – we’re worried our dream homes will be next
- EXCLUSIVE: Neighbours of £850k homes being demolished fear for their houses
- READ MORE: Over 80 newbuilds will be torn down due to ‘foundation problems’
Families living in an upmarket estate fear their dream homes will be torn down as dozens of brand new neighbouring properties are set to be demolished within days.
At least 30 luxury homes worth up to £850,000 will be reduced to piles of rubble after builders discovered they were built on faulty foundations just days before owners were due to move in.
The newly built homes standing in rows will be destroyed in an operation expected to last three months before work starts to build them back up again brick by brick.
The properties – made up of three, four and five bedroomed homes – have been sealed off inside a demolition zone as bulldozers prepare to move in.
Military-style concrete blocks have been put in place along with tall metal railings emblazoned with signs warning ‘unauthorised persons’ and children to keep out.
At least 30 luxury homes worth up to £850,000 at the Darwin Green Estate (pictured) in Cambridge will be reduced to piles of rubble after builders discovered they were built on faulty foundations just days before owners were due to move in
The Darwin Green estate is located less than two miles from Cambridge city centre
The estate is still under construction and has outline approval for 1,593 new homes
The condemned properties have been sectioned off from family homes just yards away behind a 7ft tall timber fence which has been hastily erected.
Residents report an ‘eerie silence’ surrounds the site after months of noisy construction work.
They endured daily disruptions – along with the vibrations and dust that go with it – as homes that would have stood alongside their own in the same street were put up.
Window frames and doors have already been ripped out of buildings along with interior fittings so they can be recycled when the properties are built again.
The demolition zone includes more than 50 further plots in various stages of construction including half built homes and others without roofs.
Locals told how cleaners had been drafted in to tidy homes so they could be handed over to new owners when work was suddenly halted.
Around 19 families were about to be handed the keys to their new homes on the exclusive Darwin Green estate just over a mile outside Cambridge’s historic city centre.
Residents said they included parents who were buying their first homes in the city and had registered their children in local schools.
The plug was pulled at the last minute after developer Barratt and David Wilson Homes Cambridgeshire discovered a design fault had led to foundation failures.
The builder had to seek planning permission to carry out the demolition work which is scheduled to be completed three days before Christmas.
Community leaders have branded the construction works ‘an utter unmitigated shambles’ and said people’s ‘lives and dreams’ had been ‘shattered’ by the devastating blunder set to cost an estimated £40 million.
And shocked residents who had moved into nearby identical luxury properties built in the first phase of the development told how they are seeking ‘reassurance and proof’ that their own homes are safe.
Building control officials are said to be investigating reports of ‘cracks and subsidence in some of the slightly older properties’.
Developers Barratt and David Wilson discovered issues with the design of some homes
Labour councillors Antoinette Nestor (left) and Simon Smith (right) are pictured on the Darwin Green estate in Cambridge in June, close to houses which are now facing demolition
The problem is said to have been caused by the ‘trench fill foundations’ for affected houses
New-build houses on the Darwin Green development in Cambridgeshire are being demolished
Finance broker Mark Wells, 61, who moved into his home in 2021 said: ‘Somebody has messed up big time. It’s huge isn’t it?
‘We only knew there was a problem initially because they stopped building and they fenced two houses off.
‘I spoke to one of the guys who was supposed to move in that weekend.
‘He was checking out his new home and was looking forward to moving in.
‘He had a family. He was all excited and ready to go.
‘I assume he had all removals booked and everything.
‘He said he’d sold his property and had exchanged and was ready for completion so the chain was completely broken.
‘They just cancelled the whole thing – it was all completely last minute.
‘Their reaction was confusion and disbelief.
‘The fact that there were people supposed to move in that weekend. It was literally three or four days before – I can’t think of anything worse.’
The father-of-two added: ‘All we want to know is “Are our homes going to have to come down because of the foundations?”.
‘They said they had done a different foundation design which obviously failed dramatically.
‘They spent quite a lot of money going to a third party who investigated the whole scenario.
‘I don’t understand why they’ve changed the design of the foundations which is what they said they did – it’s the money isn’t it. It’s crazy.’
An NHS hospital physician whose house backs on to the demolition zone, said: ‘It’s a disaster. Everyone is worried about what’s going on. I don’t want the house to fall down.
‘You don’t buy something for 25 years and leave nothing for your kids because the foundations are not the ones you thought and you can’t sell it.
‘They said it was different foundations and different soil but we live in the same area.
‘How do we know the foundations we have are good foundations?
‘People are getting advice from lawyers to get someone to legally challenge them.’
The doctor, who asked not to be named, said families were unable to plant trees in their gardens as they feared spreading roots could damage their homes under the ground.
And he told how developers created a mystery two metre high mound at the back of their properties which was there for months before it was flattened.
He said: ‘They put up a big hill that was shifting the water towards our gardens.
‘My garden became muddy. I challenged them. They said “Don’t worry we’ll move it in two months time” but it was there for about a year.
‘It changed the soil type because the water was shifting to us.
‘Now we’ve got the demolition work starting. We don’t know how it will affect us but there’s going to be a big noise, lots of preparations.’
The ‘high specification’ properties are among 450 homes built so far on the site which will eventually have up to 1,593 properties.
A library, community centre and shops have been built but lie empty while work to build a primary school, health centre and supermarket were already behind schedule.
Residents have to make do with takeaway vans setting up on the site at night.
A 15-acre green space called Central Park featuring sports pitches was to have become a community hub.
Homeowner Sarah Lahiff, 30, told how she had planned to move closer to relatives in Suffolk but the sale of her home was put on hold because of uncertainty surrounding the site.
Tech worker Sarah, who is mother of four-year-old son Harrison, said: ‘We moved in in March 2021.
‘It was shocking when it happened. They have been developing the entire time we lived here. It is going to affect us a lot more because everything else is delayed now. There’s already nothing here.
‘There’s been no interest in the supermarket. I don’t know if that has also been affected because of the demolition. I wouldn’t be surprised.
‘We were going to sell our house but we deliberately postponed that because we don’t know what it means to values in this area.
‘There was debate around the infrastructure for phase one and we didn’t feel like we could put the house on the market not knowing what the outcome of that would be just in case there needed to be another survey or something like that.’
The developer said tiles and other materials will be salvaged where possible
The homes being demolished are among 450 upmarket houses built in Cambridgeshire
A woman resident, who is in her 60’s and lives just feet away from the sealed off zone, said: ‘There was disruption when they were building the houses but we were happy because the community was growing.
‘It’s a beautiful community. We get on so well together. If only we could have the promised supermarket, the promised park.
‘The park should have been ready this year but now it’s 2030 or something. They say they cannot deliver it until they have completed the work around it.
‘This is a huge setback for our community.
‘We’re not happy. It sounds impossible. I don’t know at which stage something went wrong. Obviously someone didn’t do their job properly. Someone should have checked the design.
‘Whether it was control level or something else – no one will ever tell us of course.’
Investor Tak Chan bought his four bedroomed home which is just one house away from security barriers for £633,695 in June 2021.
Due to Covid restrictions it was a year before he moved in to the property as he was moving to the UK from Hong Kong.
Mr Chan, who is in his 50’s said: ‘I was surprised when I heard they were demolishing the houses. It’s a waste. It has put all the other plans behind.
‘Imagine if you had bought one of the houses and you tried to move in this year but they say “no” and it is delayed. It must be horrible for them.
‘The houses are almost the same with three or four bedrooms. There are also some with five bedrooms now.
‘It’s unusual to demolish homes on such a big scale.
‘They said they used a different technique for phase one and all our houses are OK. That’s what we’ve been told.
‘It is the houses they were building in phase two which have the problem and are going to be demolished.’
Barratt David Wilson (BDW) told residents that work was immediately halted on the site after ‘early signs of foundations stress’ was discovered in ‘a small number of properties’ during regular quality checks.
They said there was ‘a fundamental problem with the designs of the foundations’ in the second phase of the development.
BDW appointed two firms of independent engineering experts to carry out an investigation.
Residents were told their reports confirmed that the design issues affecting the new homes were not found in the original houses and said there are no quality concerns.
Homeowners were offered an additional 15-year structural warranty on top of their existing 10-year agreement meaning each home would be covered for 25 years.
But some homeowners raised concerns that the engineers’ reports were based on checking records as well as the foundation designs rather than inspections on their homes.
Some have yet to sign up to the new warranty agreement after contacting lawyers and want to appoint their own engineers to carry out a probe.
When the defects were discovered, owners of the condemned homes were given the option of walking away with refunds or continuing with their purchase.
It is understood around nine families chose to wait for their new homes which are unlikely to be ready before December 2024.
BDW said they would meet ‘any additional costs they incur as a result of the delay’ .
Lib Dem councillor Cheney Payne, who is standing for parliament in the next election, said it was ‘incredibly harrowing and distressing’ for families who discovered the foundations were unsafe after they had bought their homes and were waiting to move in.
She said: ‘It’s an absolute unmitigated shambles.
‘After sorting out your mortgage suddenly you are having to stay in your current property or keep paying rent. It just makes the whole thing more expensive than you planned for and for some people I think it is just too much.
‘When you think how stressful it is to buy a house anywhere, this must be astronomical.
‘A number of people have pulled out of their sale and said they would look elsewhere.
‘The other residents as well who live within sight of this stretch of houses are looking at their homes and thinking “Mine looks the same as yours. Does mine need to be knocked down too?”
‘A lot of the concern has been around “How do we know for sure that the earlier parts of Darwin Green are safe as well?” That’s the reassurance the residents are looking for.
‘It’s been terrible from start to finish. We are already seeing some cracks and subsidence in some of the slightly older properties where now our building control are having to come in to look at that to see how they can try and put that right.
‘The residents who are currently living in Darwin Green are still looking for reassurance and proof that their own households are safe.
‘It’s been incredibly difficult for them and indeed the council to get straight answers from Barrett David Wilson about that.
‘There should be documents which list the final “as built” plans which list what type of foundations were built and measurements etc and BDW are currently refusing to release those which is not reassuring.
‘People are now naturally very sceptical about Barrett David Wilson. People are asking a lot of questions and want a lot of reassurance about how that will work. It’s going to be ongoing for a while.’
She added: ‘There poor residents, some of whom have lived there for quite a few years now. It was meant to be a small community with amenities on your doorstep, suddenly it’s a barren wasteland.
‘I feel incredibly sorry for the people who live in Darwin Green.
‘It’s their homes. There’s people who have invested their life savings in their new homes. It really has been life-changing for people.
‘People want to hold on to their property and they want to live there but they have put everything they have on the line.’
A spokesman for Barratt Cambridgeshire said: ‘Back in June we wrote to all residents on Phase One of the development to reassure them that this was an isolated issue with the designs of a new section of the development under construction.
‘Also in the summer two independent engineering firms reviewed the designs of the existing properties and offered further reassurance to residents that their homes are not affected.
‘In addition, to provide additional comfort, we have offered all Phase One residents an additional 15 year warranty on top of the 10 year warranty provided on purchase.
‘We are now focused on ensuring that the demolition of the properties causes as little disruption as possible for existing residents.’
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