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Safety alert sparks flue check at Barratt homes

The gas central heating systems in 300 properties built by Barratt Developments are undergoing safety checks after concern was raised about the standard of their installation.

Residents living in 179 new build properties in the Balkerne Heights development in Colchester were warned by the UK’s largest housebuilder that they could be at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning because of problems with flue installations.

Other residents of 90 properties on the Horizon developments in Colchester and of 50 apartments on the Brewery Wharf development in Leeds have been notified of similar problems.

Some residents have been told to contact British Gas to safety-check their systems; others have had the gas supply to their homes switched off while remedial work is undertaken to ensure their safety.

A Barrett spokesman confirmed the action. He said: “After detailed discussions with the Health and Safety Executive, as a precautionary measure we have engaged British Gas to conduct quality assurance checks at a limited number of housing developments where a central heating system may have been installed.

“Even though all the work was commissioned and subsequently carried out by independent Corgi-registered subcontractors, we are carrying out reviews of products to ensure that they are installed to manufacturers’ instructions and current standards.”

H&V News understands that the alarm was raised at Brewery Wharf after stains were spotted on the ceilings. Condensation stains can be seen as evidence that a twin-pipe flue is leaking.

The Association for Registered Gas Installers has expressed concern that because twin-pipe flues can be up to 60 feet long, can be concealed in ceiling voids or passed through neighbouring properties, they are potentially uninspectable and are therefore unsafe.

Twin-pipe flues were fitted on Barratt’s Bedfont Lakes development in Hounslow, where Elouise Littlewood died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning. BG has since replaced the old twin-pipe flue system.

Providing an explanation for the work that occurred after Elouise’s death, a Notting Hill Housing spokesman said: “BG is carrying out work on the systems installed at Bedfont Lakes.

“Since BG will not provide a warranty on equipment that they have not installed themselves, working on the existing flues was not an option in this case.

“Therefore Barratt and Notting Hill took the decision to have BG install new flues that they could provide a warranty on.

“Flue inspection access panels are also being fitted during the remedial work in line with new regulations.”

Corgi, the gas safety watchdog, said it was aware of the inspection work going on in the Barratt properties, but ruled out issuing stricter guidelines on the installation and positioning of twin-pipe flues.

A spokesman said: “All technical guidance is subject to review in order to ensure it reflects best available knowledge and Corgi, in conjunction with industry stakeholders, has developed and published industry guidance relating to flues in voids in the form of Technical Bulletin 200.”

But, conceding that Argi’s concerns were valid, he added: “Any public safety communication in relation to this issue will have to be made by the relevant Government agencies, including the Health and Safety Executive, in the first instance.”