Khan pressed to review contracts after balcony collapse

London Assembly members have urged London mayor Sadiq Khan to review Greater London Authority (GLA) housing funding agreements with Barking and Dagenham Council after a balcony collapsed at a Bouygues-built housing scheme. 

Members of the assembly unanimously passed a motion calling for the review and also called on the mayor to investigate safety issues in the borough’s housing schemes in receipt of GLA funding.

Conservative assembly member Andrew Boff, who proposed the motion, said that residents of a Bouygues-built housing block had raised concerns to the council’s housing company, B&D Reside, about the safety of their balconies two years before one collapsed in November.

Boff told Construction News the review should look at ensuring the GLA was not complicit in any future safety incidents. 

He said: “We came quite close to a tragedy.”

Bouygues completed Weaver’s Quarter, part of the ongoing Gascoigne East estate redevelopment, for L&Q between 2018 and 2019. B&D Reside took over ownership of the estate once construction had finished.

The construction of the Gascoigne estate was supported by a government grant allocated through the Affordable Homes Programme (AHP). Barking and Dagenham Council was allocated £171m from the AHP in the period 2021-26 to build about 1,750 homes.

Boff told the Assembly on 8 February: “We now have a situation where 414 social and affordable homes [at the balcony-collapse development] have been declared unsafe. The fundamental issues that should have been picked up at that design stage […] seem to have been ignored.”

The motion also called for powers for local authorities to compel private sector developers to address structural faults in newly built housing.

Labour assembly member Unmesh Desai said: “Currently, local authorities have no legal powers to intervene and force constructors to address and correct structural faults to newly built housing.

“There’s not only a problem in Barking and Dagenham – the lack of clarity over where responsibility lies for building safety is a problem that affects the security of residents across the country.

“The safety of residents transcends political differences.”

Desai referenced a 2019 fire at a housing block built by Bellway Homes, which destroyed 20 flats.

A spokesperson from Barking and Dagenham Council said: “The balcony fascia failure in November was the latest major ‘latent defect’ in the construction of Weavers Quarter.

“The council moved quickly to impress upon Bouygues that they needed to act to ensure all the balcony coverings on the estate were safe and we want Bouygues to address all remaining defects on the estate as a matter of urgency.

“However, the council does not have the legal powers to instruct the constructor to address defects. L&Q housing association (initially, as East Thames housing association) managed the development of the scheme, and they contracted construction firm Bouygues to build it. This means that L&Q retains the sole responsibility for serving notice on Bouygues to fix construction defects.

“Importantly, we support the Assembly’s call that the government should change this arrangement and give local authorities the necessary powers to intervene and compel construction firms to address defects with newly built housing.”

B&D Reside and Bouygues have been contacted for comment. L&Q declined to comment.

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