More than 800 homes in a new Sydney suburb have allegedly been built on landfill which is subsiding, forcing a council to issue a warning to residents and potential buyers.
Penrith Mayor Karen McKeown said she has a “moral and legal obligation” to tell homeowners in Jordan Springs East about their sinking suburb.
Landfill used in the development of the area by construction and development giant Lendlease is allegedly insufficiently compacted and is subsiding, damaging homes and directly impacting an estimated $605 million worth of residential property built on the land.
Penrith Council has been adding warnings to the planning certificates of Jordan Springs East homes, and on September 28 council expanded the number of houses with planning certificate warnings from 195 to 841.
Lendlease has offered to purchase 42 homes off individual homeowners; 20 homeowners have taken the money. Two homes have been demolished because of excessive cracking.
The Penrith Council warning notations, which will appear on planning certificates issued under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, provide advice to potential buyers that there may be “fill of low relative compaction” beneath the properties and that the council is investigating.
Sources said the company used large rocks instead of finer soil, built over an old creek bed and didn’t wait long enough for excavated land to settle before allowing people to build. Some homes sit on eight metres of fill.
Mayor McKeown said the council had commissioned its own independent geotechnical assessments despite Lendlease’s own expert advice.
“Council is aware that such notations may be of concern to some homeowners and wants to assure them that the decision to take this course of action was taken only after extensive professional assessment and in the best interests of all property owners,” Ms McKeown said.
“We have a moral and legal obligation to give current and future owners information on matters that may impact their property.”
But Lendlease, which has a total market capitalisation of $8 billion, said it was “disappointed Penrith City Council has acted prematurely” to place a warning to potential homebuyers on houses in at least 40 streets.
The damage, revealed in cracked ceilings and brickwork, sunken driveways, damaged roads and split concrete slabs, was previously believed to be limited to one street and less than 30 homes. All but one homeowner approached refused to publicly comment, with many saying they’ve signed mutual confidentiality agreements with Lendlease.
Lendlease senior development manager Kevin Montier said “we’ve apologised, and apologise again, for the stress and anxiety this has caused to the impacted homeowners at Jordan Springs East.
“We’ve proactively established a compensation scheme with the Commissioner for Fair Trading to fully support those residents impacted by or likely to be impacted by excessive land settlement on and close to certain areas of Armoury Rd in the Jordan Springs East precinct.”.
“We’re disappointed Penrith City Council has acted prematurely by placing a notation on the planning certificates of 841 properties, in a much broader area than we consider appropriate, while the investigations requested by council’s experts are ongoing,” Mr Montier said.
The area is also known as Llandilo.
Building Commissioner David Chandler said fill is going into a lot of current Sydney development sites and “it’s really important for people who are doing fill ensure that the fill is placed properly.”
“Engineers who are doing foundation designs for housing on fill should pay extra attention to the fill and make sure that their designs are appropriate for the fill that is being used,” Mr Chandler said.
“They should make sure that where there’s fill they should make sure that they inspect foundations before a house is built on it. I do not want to see a whole bunch of houses in the future showing cracks. I am calling on engineers to do their jobs.”
WE’RE LEFT FEARING FOR THE FUTURE
Rhys Callaghan is being forced to deal with conflicting building reports, a warning note slapped on his property and a suburb that is allegedly crumbling around him.
But the 29-year-old aircraft maintenance man remains grateful his house hasn’t been condemned or become riddled with cracks.
“I feel really bad for some of the residents,” he said.
“We have pretty much all paid the same price to build and I’ve got a nice quality house that I feel is safe and sound.
“But, over there, there are houses that are younger than mine and all falling apart around them and breaking up slowly.
“It’s not right and no one wants to really rectify it and help them out which is a bit rubbish. I would just like someone to come forward and take responsibility for it.”
Mr Callaghan said Jordan Springs East residents have been getting different reports from Lendlease and Penrith Council.
He said he has also been getting conflicting reports from the builder and Lendlease about the condition of his home’s slab.
“You don’t know which one to go off,” he said.
“And when the council put a notation on our property we were wondering if that is going to affect us for years to come.
“For me, I’m in no rush to move because I started a new family.
“But when I do want to sell in 10–15 years’ time, how is that going to impact us?”