Homebuyers left in limbo after builder goes bust, leaving new homes unfinished in Stockport

It was promoted by Viaduct Housing – a partnership between the council and Stockport Homes – as being  the perfect fit ‘for professionals, families and those looking for a place to retire’.

It seemed like the perfect answer. High quality, affordable homes in an ‘ideal’ location just outside Stockport close to the M60 and the town’s railway station.

But 18 months down the line, the dream of home ownership has become a nightmare for those who committed to buying a home at Melford Road, in Hazel Grove – and one with no clear end.

Based on vacant land next to the park and ride, the 87-home development includes a ‘large chunk’ – 90% – of  ‘much-needed’ affordable housing.

It was promoted by Viaduct Housing – a partnership between the council and Stockport Homes – as being  the perfect fit ‘for professionals, families and those looking for a place to retire’.

Early buyers expected to be in their new homes in February last year – and when that date slipped by a month or two, they thought little of it, as new build developments rarely run entirely to schedule.

Unfinished housing estate, off Melford Road, Hazel Grove, Stockport.Credit: Vince Cole/MEN.

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When that date was put back again  they were told it was due to difficulties caused by Brexit and the pandemic.

But in February this year builders Mulberry Homes went bust – leaving the future of the site uncertain and buyers’ dreams hanging in the balance.

Among them was ‘Claire’ – not her real name – who was looking to make a fresh start with her son after suffering domestic violence. She moved in with her parents in November 2020, expecting a four-month stay, but is still waiting for her new home to be ready.

“The mental health impact is I have not been able to start afresh – I’m still stuck in this situation,” she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.                    

“I knew in February 2021 I could put everything behind me and start everything afresh. Now, I’m still stuck in that. How do you move on mentally?”

She continues: “That’s personal to me. Can you imagine the disappointment when you think you are going to have a fresh start and you can put a lid on that part of  my life?

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“The decision I made was to make my life better and that of my son – but it’s been prolonged.”

She also worries about the effect it is having on her son. 

“A young lad of 12 years old – what social impact has that had on him, not being able to be close to his friends?” she adds. “When you are that age, you should be out playing football and on your bike – but he is stuck in at his Grandma’s unless he goes straight from school.”

As well as the stress, frustration and disappointment, ‘Claire’ says she has been left around £12,000 out-of-pocket by the constant delays.

This is due to paying to keep her belongings in storage since November 2021, as well as the insurance on this and paying her parents rent for herself and her son. There have also been legal costs and repeated fees to her mortgage adviser.

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“It’s £300 a month more renting compared to a mortgage and affordable housing is supposed to help people who can’t quite afford to buy – that’s the whole point of it,” she adds.

“I’m doing shared ownership, you have to meet a certain criteria, that actually you can’t quite afford to buy a three-bedroom house on your own on your current wage. You go through that vetting and they leave you in limbo land.”

“Of course it affects your mental health because you go through peaks and troughs – getting excited, trying to plan things, coordinating things. You get all revved up, booking time off work – then you have to unbook it all.”

What has the council said?

Councillor Helen Foster-Grime, cabinet member for communities and housing, told a recent council meeting that in-house contractor Three-Sixty was still in the process of ‘pricing up’ but things were ‘looking very positive’ and it was hoped work would recommence soon.

But Claire has decided to rent a property in Hazel Grove for the next 12 months to at least give her some certainty in the medium-term.

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Viaduct has agreed to hold the price of the homes as first agreed – despite house prices rising markedly – but Claire is not impressed with the way the situation has been handled.

She says recent Q&A sessions have not been held at convenient times and she would have needed to have taken the day off to attend.

“The communication is rubbish. I know it’s all legal [matters] and they can only say what they can say, but we are still here waiting.”

And she says the constant delays and associated costs, coupled with the rise in house prices, has pushed Melford Road buyers out of the housing market.

“We are paying extra money to buy this ‘affordable housing,” adds Claire.

“I can’t buy anything new, a three-bedroom home is £350,000 in Offerton or anywhere like that. They are really expensive.

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“I just don’t think they get the impact, that’s stressful itself. Do you pull out and cut your losses or do you keep going because you are invested in it?”

Claire has pushed Viaduct for compensation – but only been offered £500 and a new fridge, something she describes as ‘a slap in the face’.

“It’s just frustrating and they have clearly said there will be no compensation. Their excuse is property has gone up and I will receive the benefits of that growth – but I would have that, anyway.”

Claire’s house has been ‘up’ since last August – and she is worried about the state it will be in if and when she finally moves in. 

“It will be dilapidated by the time I get in there!” she adds.  “I don’t know if they have sealed it up properly or if anyone has been to see if there was a leaky roof over the winter. It’s a diabolical mess.”

Another buyer, who also asked not to be named, has told how she and her husband have been forced to put their plans to start a family on hold because of the lengthy delay.

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Recently married, the couple have been living with her parents for more than 18 months. As with Claire, it was a temporary arrangement which became an indefinite one.

The couple were initially told they would move in no later than February 2021, but had expected ‘a bit of a delay’. However, they were not prepared for what was to come.

“It went from February to March to April, then May, then August – it kept on getting delayed, delayed, delayed,” the frustrated first-time buyer told the LDRS.

“Then we found Mulberry Homes went bust at the start of this year. It took them (Stockport Homes) months to work out what to do next. From January to May we didn’t have much communication, we were left in the air thinking ‘what’s going to happen next’?”

It has understandably had an impact on the pair’s mental health. “It’s not great,” she says. “I think it’s affected my partner more than me, because it’s him living with my family.”

She adds: “Our mortgage adviser has had to do so many different mortgages – he has asked what’s going on because of the number of times he has had to do this mortgage for us.

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“We have to go for walks and get ourselves out of the house just to cope with it all.”

She sent an email to Stockport Homes and Mulberry explaining the ‘mental impact’ the situation was having on herself and her husband, but was not impressed with the response.

“It doesn’t feel like we are getting the support, especially when you are not getting the communication from them,” she says.

“We did think of looking elsewhere, but houses sell before you even get to see them. We are still in this situation because there’s nothing else we can even go for.

The couple hope Three Sixty will take on the job of finishing the site and they will be in by the end of the year. An announcement is expected next month.

“We are hoping at the moment that when we hear in August it’s good news – that their own contractor is going to finish the job and we will be in before Christmas this year,” adds the 27-year-old engineer.

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“It sounds ridiculous because that’s another six months. But if they say their own contractor can’t do it, and they have to put it out to tender again, it could be years.”

The grim prospect of not being in for Christmas is one she ‘tries not to think about’. “If it’s going to be next year or the year after then it will probably take its toll on us,” she adds.

Meanwhile Reid Malster and his wife Lucy have dropped out of the Melford Road scheme and are now waiting to complete on a non-new build property in Reddish, which is not part of a Viaduct scheme.

The couple have also since had a baby, Elsie, who is now nearly four months old.