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Chirnside homes are ‘unlawfully’ occupied

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The latest residents of Chirnside’s Heath Grange housing estate have been told they are unlawfully occupying their own homes.

When they bought their homes from developers Persimmon Homes and moved in during autumn/winter 2013 the new residents were blissfully unaware that the house builder had not received the necessary completion certificate from Scottish Borders Council, because of on-going drainage issues on the estate, and they shouldn’t have moved in.

Now, however, they are only too aware of the situation they find themselves in and can only wait until either the council decides on what steps it takes next or the estate’s drainage problem is sorted out to the council’s building control officer’s satisfaction.

The Heath Grange housing estate has been plagued with drainage problems since the first houses were occupied and a number of residents have spent the past eight years in a constant round of correspondence with the council, Persimmon Homes and Scottish Water, with little in the way of resolution.

Heath Grange resident Steven Bird said: “It is a relief that the council won’t sign them off (the new houses) until things are sorted. A real relief.

“It’s been going on for so long. It’s just a back and forth between Persimmon and Scottish Water.

“There has been a ‘diverter’ pipe put in place, but our neighbour has seen that stretch of pipe completely dry when the original piping is gushing with water and everything else. The idea was to isolate the newer homes on the estate, but the problem is still that water and human waste is coming off the older parts of the estate, and the system cannot handle it.”

But while it may be a relief for established residents that the council wants to avoid the situation being made worse by even more sewage from newly occupied houses going into the apparently inadequate drainage system, those moving into the new houses haven’t had the best of starts in their new homes.

Scottish Borders Council confirmed that the new residents had been contacted, a council spokesman saying: “A number of properties have been occupied within this development before a completion certificate has been granted by the building standards authority. It is an offence to occupy a property without the necessary certificate and the council has written to new occupants advising them of the situation.

“It is not currently possible to issue a completion certificate because of ongoing problems with the drainage system within the development.

“The resolution of that problem is a matter for Persimmon Homes and Scottish Water who are both aware of the problem. However, the council is anxious to protect the interests of both existing and new residents by ensuring that their houses are served with an adequate drainage system.

“When the problem was discussed last year the council agreed to issue Temporary Habitation Certificates for a number of houses only on the clear understanding that early action would be taken to resolve the problem. Unfortunately the matter has not been resolved and the council now finds itself in the position of having to consider further action to protect the position of residents.

“As soon as Scottish Water contact the council with the completion certificates then we will issue the appropriate certificates.”

Jim Kirkpatrick, managing director at Persimmon Homes East Scotland said: “First and foremost I would like to reassure our customers at Heath Grange that we have complied with the building control inspection process and all properties were confirmed to be fully complete and fit for habitation by the council’s building control officer during his site inspection.

“We are working closely with Scottish Water and have invested in major works to effectively divert the drainage of surface water. We agreed with both Scottish Water and the council that we would continue to monitor the situation. Should any further work be identified it will be undertaken by Persimmon and Scottish Water.

“It is our understanding that the off-site drainage situation should have no bearing on issue of the necessary paperwork and we continue to keep the lines of communication open with Scottish Borders Council to secure copies of the building certificates.”

A Scottish Water spokesman said: “We have been working closely with the developer who has recently completed alterations to the existing sewer to a Scottish Water approved design.

“We will be visiting the site soon with a view to formally providing a completion certificate.”

 

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