Families had lives ruined by rogue builder - but he avoids jail because he had already been to prison
PUBLISHED: 11:55 29 March 2018 | UPDATED: 12:41 29 March 2018
ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434
A builder ruined the lives of two young families after taking tens of thousands of pounds from them – and failing to finish the jobs.
It left one family with three children living in a caravan for more than a year, while another lived in their half-finished house for nearly a year.
Both families then had to fork out tens of thousands of pounds extra to get the jobs finished and have not got a penny back in compensation.
Alan Blanchflower, of Cubitts Close, Bintree, near Dereham, pleaded guilty at Norwich Crown Court in February to two counts of knowingly/recklessly engaging in a commercial practice in contravention of unfair trading regulations.
On Wednesday the 59-year old was jailed for ten months, suspended for 18 months, and sentenced to 180 hours of unpaid work.
Mary Prendi hired Blanchflower to extend her family’s home in Morley St Botolph near Wymondham in early 2016.
The Prendis wanted an extra bedroom and bathroom to make room for their four children.
But Mrs Prendi said they soon fell out with Blanchflower about the lack of progress on the project. They paid him £85,000 but the work was never completed. They have since paid another builder £25,000 to finish the job and repair Blanchflower’s work.
Mrs Prendi, a teacher, said: “Our experience with Alan Blanchflower made us realise that anyone can fall foul of an unscrupulous builder.
“Work that should have taken approximately six months to complete, ended up taking the best part of two years.
“When we were right in the middle of the darkest days of our building project, our family resources - including both our physical and mental health - were stretched to the limit.
“We spent nearly a year camping out in an unheated, half-built structure with exposed electrics and no plumbing - whilst Mr Blanchflower made a series of broken promises.”
Meanwhile, four miles down the road in Great Ellingham, Peter and Mary Ewin were also having problems with Blanchflower.
They lived in a caravan next to their home with their three children while it was being renovated and expanded from April 2016, intending to move in that September.
But it would be 14 months before they could finally leave the caravan.
The work did not progress as planned, despite them paying Blanchflower a total of around £100,000.
Mr Ewin told the court they had to get another mortgage at great expense as they needed an extra £60,000 to finish and repair Blanchflower’s work, meaning they will be living with the financial consequences for years.
“He tried to make us feel guilty for demanding that he complete the work,” Mr Ewin said in court.
“We were left in complete limbo.”
Speaking after the case, Mary Ewin, who was pregnant while they spent the winter in the caravan, said they still had work to do on the house.
“We had to pay twice, but we have managed to turn it around,” she said.
Norwich Crown Court heard on Wednesday that a surveyor found both projects were done to a very poor standard, despite Mr Blanchflower’s experience.
John Farmer, mitigating, said Blanchflower had suffered with ill health during the work which lead to the projects being delayed.
He also over-stretched himself, Mr Farmer said, meaning he was having to use money from the projects to pay for other work and could not keep up.
Mr Farmer said Blanchflower now had no assets left and said it was not in the public interest to send him back to prison.
Blanchflower had been sentenced to 10 months in prison last October for a similar offence, but was released from prison two months later in December.
He was jailed in October for ruining the lives of an Attleborough couple who paid him more than £45,000 to convert their home. But again the work was never finished and done to a very poor standard.
Judge Andrew Shaw said had he known about the other two cases when he sentenced Blanchflower in October last year he would have jailed him for 20 to 30 months.
But he said it would be “wrong” to send him back to jail now and instead suspended his prison sentence.
The judge, Prendis and Ewins all praised Norfolk Trading Standards for their work.
Sophie Leney, head of Norfolk County Council Trading Standards, said: “We take such matters very seriously, because of the harm caused to both consumers and the reputation of local businesses in the building trade.”
•Consumers can find a Norfolk Trusted Trader by visiting www.norfolk.gov.uk/trustedtrader or by calling 0344 800 8020.
•If you are concerned about rogue builder activity contact Trading Standards through the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.
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