'Our houses are unsaleable' - ten £300k homes on a controversial Banbury estate are affected by 'heave' as water affects foundations
The householders showed the Banbury Guardian cracks in interior and exterior walls and demonstrated how doors are almost impossible to open and close because of the movement of walls and doorframes.
The houses were built in two cul de sacs, eight years ago, behind Crouch Hill Road after locals lost a fight to prevent planning permission. The residents say they had warned that the scrub land on which building eventually took place in 2014 had been boggy ground on clay, that was unsuitable for construction.
Developers Taylor Wimpey, who have apologised for the problem, says the issue is with tree roots beneath the houses. They have handed the problem over to the National House Building Council (NHBC) which signed off the foundations during construction. NHBC is also the insurer for construction but it has said ultimate responsibility for building quality lay with Taylor Wimpey.
Old established trees were felled to make way for the houses. Mature trees can take up 100 gallons of water a day and householders say because the water is no longer being transpired by the trees, the ground beneath their homes is being flooded from the ground upwards. They also claim foundations were too shallow.
One resident, who owns her house, described how she returned from a holiday to find her ground floor flooded. "Tiles and laminate flooring had to be replaced and I had to have dehumidifiers going for four months," she said. "There was no way the water could have got there other than rising up from underground.
"The National House Building Council (NHBC) is measuring the movement of our houses. They have put screws and writing on the cracks on the walls to measure the increase and we have meters buried six feet deep in front and behind our homes and measure movement below ground every six weeks.
"In the cul de sac behind ours, the houses are almost divided because the joining walls have come apart. Somebody came down to look at our foundations and he said they are not deep enough and the foundations will rot over the years. I wrote to Taylor Wimpey and asked them to confirm they had met all building regulations and that they were deep enough. They said it's in the hands of NHBC. They won't tell us anything."
She was first alerted to the problem when a mortgage survey on a neighbouring house showed 'heave'. "This movement, instead of subsidence, is called heave. It happens over a number of years. The water just builds up because the trees roots aren't there to absorb the water so it builds up over the years."
Across the parking area, the owner-occupier said she would not be able to sell her house without full and lasting repair.
"We don't know what they (Taylor Wimpey or NHBC) are going to do. Sometimes I can't even lock my door because it won't close properly, neither will my daughter's bedroom window Neighbours who can see straight through into the back of the houses opposite have seen the stairwell and everything has been ripped out. What's happening if that is just 'tree roots'?
"All of my rooms have cracks in. I still have a bucket in my loft where there was a roof leak. No one has been to see it. The water collected between the wall and the plasterboard of my daughter's bedroom wall and created a balloon where the damp expanded the plasterboard.
"We can't sell these houses until full, permanent repairs are done. All the houses in this cul de sac are privately owned." she said.
Last week a mother living in social housing on the development described how a tile had cracked while her children were in the bath.