Sacked boss offers £700k for homes council owned company may demolish
- Credit: John Elworthy
David Collins has offered to buy outright for £700,000, three luxury homes his company had partially built before county council owned This Land Ltd suspended then terminated his contract.
This Land revoked the contract in June claiming breaches of health and safety and alleging design and installation faults with the steel framed houses at Ditton Walk, Cambridge.
Mr Collins, managing director of Hadham Construction, says the Buildoffsite Property Assurance Scheme (BOPAS) - his industry’s principal regulator – had conducted an investigation and re-instated his warranty.
“They gave us a clean bill of health and if you check, we now have a green again on their website,” he said.
“We got a report back on the houses which confirmed they are perfectly safe if completed by us.”
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BOPAS provides evidence for funders, lenders, valuers and buyers that homes built from non-traditional methods will stand the test of time for at least 60 years.
Mr Collins is owed around £200,000 by This Land for works he says was completed before the contract was terminated.
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He said £14,000 from This Land “mysteriously popped up in our bank account” quite recently.
“We are still issuing proceedings for the rest of it,” he said. “This Land has, however, offered us the opportunity to survey the buildings prior to them completing them”.
Mr Collins said he would be going onsite with surveyors next week although “we surveyed them before we left and we know exactly what state they are: we will go back and check them again.”
This Land chief executive David Lewis agrees that the “monumental” fall out with Mr Collins is likely to be resolved in court.
Mr Lewis said there had always been a “difficult relationship” with Hadham and the contract had been agreed with his predecessor.
During an exclusive tour of the site, Mr Lewis showed me what This Land had concluded were structural issues associated with the three executive style homes.
He felt Hadham had been given sufficient notification and sufficient time to remedy them.
Ultimately, said Mr Lewis, he had taken the “difficult decision” to terminate the contract.
He also alleged ongoing health and safety issues had factored into that decision and says This Land has photographic evidence supporting their claims of Hadham workers not being properly equipped on site.
One option has been to instruct Future-Built Ltd to “prepare drawings and to get tenders” to complete the work.
Future-Built Ltd from Norwich provides similar specialised construction methods and coincidentally has the same chairman as This Land Ltd, the former Tory MP and property tycoon Steve Norris.
Its sale director is Cllr Colin Noble, a former leader of Suffolk County Council, described by Future-Built as spearheading the company’s “new partnerships with county councils, combined authorities, local authority housing companies and housing associations”.
Mr Lewis said Future-Built had not been offered a contract for completion of the works but would be invited to tender.
One possibility is that This Land will opt for demolition of the existing homes and begin from scratch. Mr Lewis declined comment.
He said the issues at Ditton Walk – the development is being marketed as Cityglades – would not have a serious impact on This Land’s finances.
He said the economics of This Land were “going very well” and the annual accounts to be published shortly would reflect that.
It had concentrated on selling off “under performing assets” and buying other land and sites which would offer a better return.
This Land would not release its business plan for commercial reasons but he said the sole shareholder – Cambridgeshire County Council – had been among those to scrutinise it and all were “very happy with it”.
Mr Lewis said: “We have passed every test - we are in a good position.”
This Land has recently made three redundancies after scaling back the sites it plans to build itself and those it will sell on.
By disposing of 15 sites to third party developers, it says it wants a “more focused delivery” to build around 450 homes in the next four years.