McVey quizzed on fire-risk homes purchased through Help To Buy

Housing Minister says MHCLG response to Commons question will be provided “as soon as possible”.

Fire alarm with smoke

With Help To Buy facing ‘integrity issues’, Housing Minister Esther McVey was unable to say how much public money has been spent on the purchase of fire-risk Persimmon homes through the scheme since its start.

Responding to a written Commons questions from Labour’s Clive Betts, McVey said an answer would be provided “as soon as possible” with MHCLG unable to answer within the expected time period.

The Barwise review released last year found Persimmon did not properly install cavity fire barriers – which act like fire doors in open spaces in floors and walls to prevent dire spread – in homes it built across the country, putting customers at potential risk.

Persimmon was criticised for a series of failures and accused of focussing on achieving a top rating from the Home Builders Federation rather than safety standards.

Led by Stephanie Barwise QC, the review said the lack of cavity barriers in some Persimmon homes posed an “intolerable risk”.

The Barwise review found that “Persimmon has a nationwide problem of missing and/or incorrectly installed cavity barriers in its timber-frame properties, first discovered in October 2018”.

Persimmon reacted swiftly by inspecting sites where the problem first occurred, and then extending its inspections beyond this to reflect the evolving nature of the issue and data available.

But the review found the inspections did not include roof eaves or proper checks around doors and windows.

“Although we understand the problem has, to date, only been identified in Persimmon’s’s timber-frame properties, we suggest that a fire engineer should be asked to consider the different Persimmon construction types,” the review said.

As reported by 24housing, a report from the Commons Public Accounts Committee said Help To Buy will have tied up some £29bn in cash terms by the time in concludes in 2023 – but the value of what it has achieved is uncertain when many of those helped could have bought anyway.

That backed a report on Help To Buy released by the National Audit Office in June that found almost a third of buyers could have purchased a property they wanted without the help of the scheme.

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