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Residents mull legal action over vibrating Bellway block

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Bellway has called in an independent structural consultant to assess complaints of excessive vibration at one of its major London developments as residents warn they may launch collective legal action

The housebuilder has commissioned Jubb Consulting Engineers to carry out a complete investigation of the timber frame building designed by HGP Architects. Residents say there is excessive vibration whenever occupants use a washing machine.

The move comes after more than nine months of complaints from residents at the Keyse development in Bermondsey.

The company accepted the vibrations were of ‘concern’ in September 2011.

Residents say there is excessive vibration whenever occupants use a washing machine

Bellway initially asked suppliers to check designs and employed a sound and vibration specialist to test the structure and establish the severity of the vibration, while a screed and concrete specialist was appointed to check the floor make-up.

The timber-frame supplier discovered a problem with a beam at first-floor level which was initially thought to be the problem, but after several months and remedial works it was established that this was not the cause of the excessive vibration.

Bellway now says it is reviewing the results of further investigations and is considering relocating the washing machines.

The company said: ‘We have been investigating four properties, two of which have complained about a level of vibration being above acceptable limits.

‘The issue has been subject to various investigations since the problem was reported. While this has taken a number of months to date, there have been numerous site visits, meetings, tests, etc during this period.

Bellway does not intend to use timber-frame construction in the future

‘Bellway does not intend to use timber-frame construction in the future, although this decision was made prior to the issues.’

A spokesman added: ‘No blame is being levied against [the architects] and independent surveys confirm that the building meets acoustic and Building Regulations.’

But residents dispute Bellway’s version of events, arguing the problem is more serious and widespread than it has admitted.

A 10-person committee was formed last week to act collectively for all residents in all four blocks on the Keyse development which they say have a common complaint of severe vibration and in some cases, a serious acoustic problem.

Some have raised the possibility that the fault is so serious it could mean Bellway has to buy back each of the apartments and demolish the entire development.

The vibrations were first reported in the Sandover House and Weightman House parts of the development, which contain around 50 apartments between them.

The owner of one apartment in Sandover House, Philip Sands, who paid more than £350,000 last year, said his experience had been ‘truly awful’.

The building vibrates and shakes whenever a washing machine is switched on

‘The building vibrates and shakes whenever a washing machine is switched on. The ceiling, walls and floors of the apartment are affected.

‘Bellway has known about the problem since last June and accepted it was a serious concern, but since then they have not cured it.’

Sands said he plans to get an updated independent valuation of the property because he is concerned the problem will have ‘wiped away most of its value’.

He added: ‘There are more than 30 apartments in my block and I think most are affected and there are two or three other blocks on the same development.

‘Vibration problems have also been reported in these. Everyone is now getting fed up with Bellway and legal action against them is getting closer by the day.’

Bellway’s liability for Keyse is two years, expiring on 26 April 2013. The National House Building Council guarantee that comes into force after that time expires on 26 April 2021.

Past criticisms of volume housebuilders’ systems have had a major impact on share prices.

Barratt was badly affected by a 1980s World in Action TV programme that criticised the use of timber frames.

Barratt’s company share price collapsed, forcing it to abandon the system.


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