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Housebuilding giant failed to properly install firestopping says independent report

18th December 2019

An independent report into Persimmon Homes has found that it routinely failed to properly install correct cavity barriers and firestopping on its timber frame properties.

The independent report, conducted by Stephanie Barwise QC, of Atkin Chambers, found that the failure to install correct cavity barriers was a “systemic nationwide problem” and called for the firm’s board to reassess the builder’s whole “purpose and ambition”.

Persimmon commissioned the report as part of it commitment to improve its build quality procedures through the introduction of independent quality inspectors and through the establishment of a Construction Working Group, comprising senior experienced construction professionals from across the company.

The report’s summary said that the problem Persimmon has encountered with missing/improperly fitted cavity barriers is a systemic nationwide problem, which is a manifestation of poor culture coupled with the lack of a Group build process.

The report went on to say that if the Board wishes Persimmon to be a builder of quality homes, meeting all relevant build and safety standards, then it should re-consider Persimmon’s purpose and ambition.

Persimmon has already begun to take some positive steps, such as being the first housebuilder to introduce a retention scheme, and making changes to its systems and processes, including the digitalisation of its existing pre completion procedure with some valuable modifications. The likely impact of these changes cannot be assessed in a vacuum, as they must be viewed in light of Persimmon’s agreed upon purpose and ambition.

The report was published on Persimmon’s website today but not publicly announced.

The report which queried installation competence also raised questions about the quality in the wider housebuilding industry, by criticising the Home Builders’ Federation’s five-star quality rating system. It said there was a disconnect between the award of stars by the HBF Survey and true (as opposed to perceived) build quality.

The report did state that Persimmon’s board deserved significant credit for commissioning the review and publishing its findings, which reflected a willingness to confront difficult truths.

Roger Devlin, the Chairman of Persimmon, said: ‘This review, and the seriousness that we attach to its detailed findings, is an important moment for Persimmon as we continue to build a different business with an increased focus on our customers and wider stakeholders – becoming a business that prioritises purpose as well as profit.”

Persimmon is the UK’s third-largest housebuilder, with an annual turnover of more than £3.5bn.