Construction milestone reached despite Coronavirus

Posted 17 August 2020

Populo Living and The Mayor of Newham – Rokhsana Fiaz (OBE), at the topping out ceremony, The Didsbury, East Ham, Newham.

Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz has pledged to keep her foot on the pedal to build thousands of new affordable homes in Newham, despite coronavirus’ impact in the borough.

 Mayor Fiaz said she was still on course to reach her initial target of 1000 new council-owned homes by March 2022 - thanks to projects getting back with construction sites made Covd-19 secure at pace. She was speaking at the ‘topping out ceremony’ of The Didsbury, East Ham, which marks the end of the first phase of the £35.8m residential development by Newham Council’s housing delivery company, Populo Living.

 The Mayor led a bricklaying ceremony to celebrate the milestone, with Populo Living’s CEO Deborah Heenan and contractor Bugler Group’s CEO Andy Bugler.

 The Didsbury will have 148 high-quality, energy efficient homes when complete, including 77 private rented and 71 affordable homes. A further 37 private rented homes are being refurbished at the neighbouring site, the former East Ham Town Hall Annex. The main construction project is on course to be completed by autumn 2021, despite a four week site shutdown in March and April during the height of the pandemic.

 Mayor Fiaz praised Populo and its contractor Bugler Group for remobilising the site quickly in line with government and industry public health guidelines.

 Populo and Bugler introduced new welfare measures introduced quickly to protect workers’ health and safety, while maximising manpower on site. This included maintaining and managing social distancing, tight hygiene control, one-way access, handwashing, ventilation and temperature checks.

 Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz said; “This is a major milestone for one of our flagship developments. The Didsbury and the Town Hall Annex are key to regenerating East Ham, so reaching this stage despite the pandemic is a big step forward for the whole community.

 “We have kept the project on track by moving quickly to protect workers’ health, safety and welfare. Covid-19 will be with us for a long time to come so it was vital to move at pace to get the site bio-secure and get the project back up and running.

“I am keeping my foot on the pedal to tackle the housing crisis. I am 100% committed to our 2022 target and beyond. We can’t let the disease knock us off course. So I am delighted by Populo and Bulger and their partners have been positive and proactive so we’re set to complete by autumn 2021.

“I set up the The Affordable Homes for Newham programme to harness all our powers to build thousands of high-quality, energy-efficient homes for the people who need them most. That’s why I set a tough initial target of 1000 starts by March 2022 and why Populo’s new remit will ensure 50% of the thousands of homes it will build are genuinely affordable.”

Populo is managing 12 sites in Newham and expects to have 884 homes underway by March 2022 to meet Mayor Fiaz’s target. This is underpinned with a £107m grant from the Mayor of London to support affordable home building in the borough. Populo’s Business Plan set out its long-term plans to build 2,382 affordable homes out of a 4,855 portfolio, with an estimated investment of £1.5bn.

 Populo, which changed its name from Red Door Ventures in June, is central to the Mayor’s new approach to meet the scale of the housing challenge in Newham - with 27,000 people on the Housing Register and 5,420 households in temporary accommodation (as of March 2020). The repurposing of Red Door Ventures to Populo – included a total change in its remit from 2019, so at least 50% of all homes it builds are council-owned and pegged to the London Affordable Rent benchmark. Newham’s previous administration set up Red Door Ventures to build homes for the private rental market exclusively.

 Bugler Group CEO Andy Bugler said; ““We are delighted to have reached this key stage of the Didsbury project, a development we are proud to be constructing for our partners at Populo Living.

“In late March, with the Covid 19 crisis quickly emerging, and in consultation with the Senior Leadership team at Populo, we took the decision to stop all work and temporarily close the site until we could ensure the safety of our workforce, visitors to site and the wider local community. 

“After introducing a series of enhanced safety precautions and carefully considered new rules and procedures in accordance with the Construction Leadership Council’s guidance, we were able to remobilise on site in late April and gradually increase production.

“I’m delighted to say that construction is now progressing at normal levels and with only 8 weeks production lost overall, we are confident of completing the development and handing over the completed scheme to Populo in September 2021.”

Archived Media Centre