Confidence in Cambar is back

Homes in Friary Park in Ballabeg have been affected

Homes in Friary Park in Ballabeg have been affected

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Banks are starting to reconsider their stance on lending on 1970s-built Cambar-Mantis homes in the island.

A government working group says it has made real progress in getting confidence back in the local housing market - having established that Cambar homes built here were constructed to a far superior standard than other system-built housing elsewhere.

The Isle of Man Examiner revealed in March that banks had become reluctant to lend on certain prefabricated concrete panel bungalows built in the 1970s by Cambar Homes.

There are some 400 to 440 such properties in the island. The problem was highlighted when a surveyor warned the potential buyer of a bungalow on the Friary Park estate that ‘most or possibly all’ of mortgage lenders seem to have decided not to lend on Mantis/Cambar homes – a situation which he said ‘could blight whole developments’.

But in a letter to the Friary Park residents, the government working group said: ‘Significant progress has now been made with everyone having a better technical understanding about how Cambar-Mantis homes were constructed here and the distinct differences in their higher standard and form of construction compared with other system built housing elsewhere in the British Isles (including other variants of Cambar homes).’

The working group, headed by Castletown MHK Richard Ronan with Treasury member Phil Braidwood MLC, was set up ‘with an aim of re-instilling their confidence in this type of housing, so that they could reconsider their stance on mortgage finance’.

Mr Braidwood met local representatives of the banks and financial institutions last month.

Some lenders, such as Isle of Man Bank, are now making local decisions on mortgage requests, based on surveys on the individual properties concerned. Others have asked for more information.

As a consequence, planning officers are working with local members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to prepare and publish technical guidance on Cambar homes’ construction, to be used as a reference document by local surveyors and lenders.

The letter concludes: ‘Please be assured we are treating this matter with upmost importance.’

Mr Braidwood said the banks had been lending on a lower loan to value basis than on traditional buildings, based on guidance from a 2002 UK Building Research Establishment report.

But the working group found building methods here were completely different.

Mr Ronan said: ‘It’s pretty clear that the foundations and roof structure are far superior than what you get across. In fairness to the Planning Committee in the 1970s they go it absolutely right.

‘We understand the concerns that have been highlighted. But a little bit of good has come out of this. We can highlight the positives – and there are many.’

Planners had insisted on the use of the galvanised bolts and the requirement that buildings were all rendered, which while mainly aesthetic has provided an additional protective layer. Vertical hairline cracks on the render coating may have wrongly been diagnosed as structural problems when in fact they are just movement surface cracks the working group established.

It also noted that an article in the Examiner in the June – headlined ‘Cambar homes are excellent’ – had ‘helped to improve wider understanding and perceptions and begun to instil confidence in the housing market’.

Rushen MHK Laurence Skelly said: ‘The government had provided real credible evidence for the banks to use. We have already seen some movement on this and we hope to continue the momentum.’

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