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'It's a nightmare' - Passivhaus tenant's string of issues with internationally-acclaimed council house

PUBLISHED: 11:51 09 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:17 09 August 2019

New Passivhauses on Haslips Close in Norwich. Picture: Archant

New Passivhauses on Haslips Close in Norwich. Picture: Archant

Archant

They have been heralded as the crown jewel in Norwich's housing supply, receiving international acclaim.

New Passivhauses on Haslips Close in Norwich. Picture: ArchantNew Passivhauses on Haslips Close in Norwich. Picture: Archant

But for Steve Murrell and his young family, living in one of the new Passivhauses built on the edge of Norwich has been one problem after the next.

The 34-year-old cleaner, who lives with his wife Kylie and their seven-year-old son Leo, was among the first people to land one of the acclaimed ultra-low energy council houses on Haslips Close, moving in at the beginning of February.

But despite the home being brand new, he has already needed the floor replacing after a water leak, a gas leak repaired and electrical works carried out.

His main concern, though, is a safeguarding issue, which means he has no way of preventing his young son from letting himself outside as he pleases.

The house is secured solely by a twisting lock, which is well within the reach of the youngster, who lives with attention hyperactivity deficit disorder (ADHD).

Mr Murrell said: "My son has no difficulty whatsoever getting out of the door - it is so easy for him to unlock it.

"On one occasion he managed to get out and was very close to being hit by a car. It's a nightmare - we can't have a shower or go to bed without worrying."

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Mr Murrell has raised the issue with the city council, but was initially been told there is nothing that can be done to help him as changing the locking system would void the house's warranty and see it fall short of "Passivhaus standard".

Becky Gunton, one of his neighours, also said her five-year-old son Lucas had let himself out of their house at 6am.

However, City Hall has now contacted him to say it is now pursuing a solution for him.

A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: "It is entirely normal that brand new properties have various issues which need to be resolved after people settle in - these tend to relate to work that the developer has done and is responsible for - as is the case here."

But they said issues such as an internal lock on a door were their responsibility, and said they had written to Mr Murrell to "reassure him that we would find a solution for this particular problem".

The spokesman added: "We are talking to the door manufacturers about fitting an appropriate safety device such as a bolt or chain. This is not straightforward because we do not want to damage the Passivhaus door and therefore invalidate its warranty.

"However, we are confident that a solution will be found."

A spokesman for R G Carter, the contractors that built the homes, said: "We are aware of the issues raised with Mr Murrell and have been working closely with him to resolve these matters.

"As with all new homes, there can be issues during the settling in period, however, we always provide support and aftercare to homeowners and our client to ensure we deliver a consistently high standard of finished home."

In July, the homes on Goldsmith Street - which are the same as those on Haslips Close - were shortlisted for the 2019 Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize.

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