'Please buy this house back' - couple struggles with house-builder refusing to end 'nightmare' of £300k blighted home on new estate in Banbury

A couple who bought a newly built home to fund their retirement are in a struggle with housebuilder Taylor Wimpey which is refusing to buy back the property which is cracking apart because of underground movement.

By Roseanne Edwards
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 11:16 am
Updated Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 12:19 pm
Jan and Nigel Hanwell's house in Crouch Hill Road, empty for a long time and developing worsening cracks

The best Taylor Wimpey will offer Jan and Nigel Hanwell is another of their new-builds - but they would have to pay 35 per cent more and they do not have the money.

Mrs Hanwell told the Banbury Guardian that Taylor Wimpey is 'adamant' it will not buy back the four-bedroomed house in Crouch Hill Road, built over clay ground where a number of old established trees grew. Without the trees to take up water, the clay soil has swollen, causing the ten homes on the 2014 estate to move and begin to crack apart.

Some of the houses are having extensive work done, including construction of a 'raft' set on concrete pilings drilled metres down into the ground beneath. Families - a number in housing association properties - have been moved out.

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Work goes on at some of the Taylor Wimpey houses on Crouch Hill Road, Banbury

The Banbury Guardian reported on problems residents were facing in stories here and here.

Mrs Hanwell said: "My husband and I bought 47 Crouch Hill Road in January 2015 as a brand new home. The idea was to rent it out with the money going towards our pension. We had no idea there might be problems with the ground as we only moved to Banbury in 2007 and didn’t know the history of the area.

"For the first few years we had no problems and had wonderful tenants. But within six months, our neighbours had noticed major cracks in their walls and ceilings that were growing both in number and size and the front door would no longer close easily.

"Because we were out of the two-year ‘snagging‘ period with Taylor Wimpey, we contacted the National House Building Council (NHBC) and they instigated a series of checks by implanting monitors into the brickwork of the house over a period of well over two years

A crack in the wall of one of the Crouch Hill Road homes

"By the time we got to 2020 it became clear that there were major problems with the six houses in our cul-de-sac and we were told by the NHBC that everyone would have to move out to allow major remedial work to take place. We gave notice to our tenants and they moved out in October 2020 and the house has remained empty since then."

Mr and Mrs Hanwell were told the structural work would take six to eight weeks, although this was subsequently changed to six to nine months and work would start in January 2021. Nothing happened until February 2022.

"We approached Taylor Wimpey and asked whether they would buy the house back as it was obviously a major structural failing on their part. They were extremely unhelpful and all they were prepared to offer us was a part-exchange for another house on a new estate in Banbury - providing we paid at least 35 per cent more.

"This was completely unacceptable as we didn’t have the money to put towards a larger property and we had no wish to own a larger house. This whole thing is a huge worry and our dreams of owning a property to help towards our pension has turned into a nightmare."

The crack in a bedroom of one of the homes in Crouch Hill Road caused by 'heave' in which the buildings are moving as clay rehydrates beneath ground level

An engineer's report on the properties says each house will need to be re-supported 'on a piled raft to restore overall long-term stability, with appropriate superstructure repairs etc. A movement joint is recommended to be provided, e.g. by using a suitable compressible material between the houses and including extending between the piled raft foundation and existing adjacent foundations'.

Mrs Hanwell said: "We have no idea whether we will be able to rent the house out again once the structural work is completed or indeed whether we will ever be able to sell it, so we feel Taylor Wimpey should be held morally responsible to help us with this disastrous situation, rather than abdicating their responsibility to a third-party warranty provider – the NHBC," said Mrs Hanwell.

"We imagine this case is an exception to the rule - I can't imagine Taylor Wimpey has this problem everywhere - so it is a special case and one where they should act honourably and buy the house back from us.

"I asked Andrew Lehmann, the Operations Technical Director from Taylor Wimpey if he would be happy to live in a house where the cracks in the walls of the en-suite are wide enough to put your hand in or where the front door won't close properly because the wall above shows a wide crack - and he agreed that he would not be happy. But still they say they 'categorically will not' buy the house back."

Empty houses waiting to be stripped of interior fixings prior to major rebuilding work

A spokesman for Taylor Wimpey said: "We are sincerely sorry for the distress that Mr and Mrs Hanwell and others at this development have experienced as a result of the problems with their home.

"The NHBC is carrying out remedial work under the Buildmark warranty and we are in ongoing discussions with Mr and Mrs Hanwell regarding the situation."

Trees in the remainder of the copse. Large, established trees like these were felled to make way for the houses - but allowance was not made for the water they transpired
Crouch Hill Road before the Taylor Wimpey development was started. The land used to have ponds on and is said to be boggy