Eighty-eight £850k newbuild homes torn down after foundations found to be unsafe

Two bulldozers destroying houses on Darwin Green Estate
The homes were revealed to have cracks in the walls after being built on moving foundations, following an investigation (Image credit: Bav Media)

Demolition has started on 88 newly built homes after they were found to have been built on unsafe foundations.

The development on the site in Cambridge has plans for nearly 3,000 high-quality homes but a number of the homes already built were found to have structurally unsound foundations after an investigation.

A number of other homes on the site have already been sold off to buyers prompting safety concerns with Cambridge City Council and the developers assuring the residents every precaution is being taken to minimise disruption to them.

This serves as a warning to those looking at building a house that even professional developers can get things seriously wrong during the construction phase.

Why were the homes ordered to be demolished?

Homebuilding & Renovating reported in June last year that 36 newly built homes worth £20 million were to be demolished due to dodgy foundations.

However, it later transpired that 88 homes had a series of failures, despite Barratt and David Wilson Homes, the developers for the site, claiming only a “small number” of houses had been affected.

A spokesperson for Barratt and David Wilson Homes Cambridgeshire, the developers of the site, said at the time: "We have an extensive quality assurance process and during inspections we found that a small number of unoccupied properties at our Darwin Green development did not meet our usual high standards.

"Unfortunately, the most effective course of action at this stage is to demolish the properties and rebuild them. We have apologised to the customers affected and understand their frustrations, but we are doing all that we can to lessen the impact of this for them."

Inspected homes revealed cracks in the walls shortly after being completed with the homes being built on trench-fill foundations, which caused the foundations to move.

A side on view of a destroyed home on the housing estate

Initially only 36 homes were meant to be demolished before 52 more homes were found to be unsafe (Image credit: Bav Media)

Demolition hasn't affected plans for 450 new homes

The demolished houses have not stopped the plans for the large housing project with developers continuing the building of nearly 3,000 homes.

Darwin Estate has plans for 450 homes worth up to £850,000 on the former University of Cambridge playing fields, which has planning permission.

The development has plans for 2,500 homes along with a school and community facilities  as well as a park to be eventually implemented.

A number of the homes already built have been sold off to buyers who now occupy the properties.

Overhead view of the development shows new builds next to an empty plot of land

The plot has plans to build nearly 3,000 new homes with developers not being put off by the demolition of 88 already built homes (Image credit: Google Earth)

Councillors ensure homeowners of safety

Approval for the demolition of the houses was granted by South Cambridgeshire District Council’s joint development control committee last month who assured, along with the developers, that residents safety would remain a priority.

Chair of the committee, Councillor Simon Smith, said he wanted to make sure all residents were provided communication of the updates to the demolition and wanted to address all homeowner's concerns.

He stated: “This committee is concerned to promote the highest possible quality of sustainable housing development to meet housing needs and create places where communities can thrive. 

"This committee encourages BDW Homes [the Darwin Green development] collaborate with the shared planning services officers with the view to preparing and submitting such an application, so that known and any other possible concerns relating to the finished floor levels and the as built drainage system at BDW2 can be identified, addressed and resolved to ensure construction is in accordance with the approved plans.”

Barratt and David Wilson Homes said "extensive inspections" were carried out during construction, and all existing properties were signed off by approved building control inspectors. They added they were “working hard to rectify this situation” as they stated to the committee: “As you are aware, following quality assurance checks earlier this year we discovered issues with the design of the foundations of the units under construction.

“Whilst this is a rare circumstance, the application before you today will enable us to demolish the affected properties to allow us to rebuild to the correct foundations and deliver much needed housing. In our commitment to minimise the effects of the demolition works on the environment and local residents, we will be implementing a comprehensive series of measures to mitigate the impacts of noise, dust, and vibration throughout the duration of the works.”

The proposed demolition is expected to take 12 weeks to complete with four homes already being removed.

Joseph Mullane
News Editor

News Editor Joseph has previously written for Today’s Media and Chambers & Partners, focusing on news for conveyancers and industry professionals.  Joseph has just started his own self build project, building his own home on his family’s farm with planning permission for a timber frame, three-bedroom house in a one-acre field. The foundation work has already begun and he hopes to have the home built in the next year. Prior to this he renovated his family's home as well as doing several DIY projects, including installing a shower, building sheds, and livestock fences and shelters for the farm’s animals. Outside of homebuilding, Joseph loves rugby and has written for Rugby World, the world’s largest rugby magazine.