Agenda item

SMALL SITES HOUSING DEVELOPMENT EVALUATION

To receive the report of Paul White, Project Manager, Environment.

Minutes:

RECEIVED the report of Paul White, Project Manager, Environment.

 

Joanne Drew, Director of Housing & Regeneration introduced the report and said that its purpose was to highlight lessons learnt from the issues experienced in the Enfield Small Sites 1 Project and to make recommendations for the future small sites programme so that the same issues may be avoided and to make delivery more successful.

 

The following points and comments were highlighted:

 

·         The original strategy for the Small Sites 1 Project was a worthy one but the Council took on risk when signing up to the Development Agreement.

·         Small sites have many extra challenges and are less attractive to larger developers. Economies can be achieved by packaging sites together, but decisions must be made on how this is done and how risk is managed.

·         An Action Plan (See Agenda Pack) has been produced and takes the lessons learnt and recommendations from the report and illustrates how these will be addressed in the future strategy of developing small sites in future.

·         Enfield Council will work with smaller building firms on its future housing schemes in a bid to avoid setbacks that have dogged a recent project.

·         Small and medium-sized (SME) firms are thought to be a better bet than big contractors when it comes to building homes on smaller sites.

·         The council will also look to simplify the design and construction and tighten up its negotiating stance in a bid to reduce the risks it faces from construction projects.

·         The measures are outlined in the report on the first phase of the small sites project.

·         The scheme was designed to provide 94 homes on seven sites across the borough and construction began in 2014. However, the original project soon ran into difficulty when one of the contractors went into liquidation the following year. The report states that the collapse of the Contractor was due to a sudden, unexpected change in central government policy following the 2015 general election. This led to the loss of key members of staff, which meant designs were left undeveloped or information lost.

·         This led to delays and cost overruns as the Council was forced to find a new contractor. Some half-built homes also had to be pulled down due to weather damage.

·         Enfield Council has reviewed the project and plans to change its approach to future housing schemes to stop the problems from recurring.

·         The Government has announced funding to develop SME builders’ capacity and as a Council the aim is to nurture local SME developers and help them by making their job very simple. They need to have a clear brief about the house they are building and be able to get on with the job in hand.

·         Paul White, Project Manager Environment advised that the Council ‘packaged up’ houses on the small sites scheme to suit bigger contractors. However, this led to problems for the firms, including difficulties coordinating transport between different sites.

·         Joanne added that the Council were aware that the project came with a range of risks but added that all the risks had materialised in one go.

·         The report suggests that smaller packages of sites tendered to smaller SME contractors with direct JCT contracts rather than Development Agreements may be a better approach. Suitable contractors need to be identified and supported,

·         A further issue related to design consultants’ understanding Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS). It was discovered once on site during small sites 1 and on Ordnance Road that it was difficult to meet the Council’s SUDs policy requirements with the designs for which the architect had obtained planning permission (the responsibility of the designer not the planner).

·         Delivering SUDS on any small site going forward will be a challenge and needs early engagement with the SUDS team.

·         Value engineering decisions during the construction phase to reduce costs should not be made without the input of a planning officer where it is relevant to any planning permission. As a result of this the Action Plan does include getting additional planning support going forward.

·         The remaining homes on phase one of the small sites scheme would be completed by July this year.

·         Concerns were raised regarding contractors becoming insolvent and this risk may be higher with smaller and medium sized contractors. Could an alternative be for the council to do the work themselves? Joanne advised that currently Enfield Council do not have in-house construction. Although this would prove a challenge it could possibly work within a partnership however, this would have to be phased in and would not be within our reach for several years.

·         Members and Officers agreed that there will be lessons learnt from small sites that could be brought forward to the Meridian Water Project. It was also agreed that several recommendations in the report are also relevant to Meridian Water.

·         Members commended the report in that it was honest and transparent, and it had been interesting and useful to see the lessons learnt. It was clear from the report and subsequent discussions that communication and good project management are key to the success of the scheme.

·         The Chair thanked Joanne and Paul for their update and sensed that further development would be seen during the next year at which point the committee would welcome a progress report. In the meantime, he encouraged officers to approach the committee should they feel that there was any relevant information to share as it was not necessary to wait for an invite to attend an OSC meeting.

 

 

 

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