Online Archive  
Issue 1 - December 1971
Concrete And Clay
"Houses to make homes in": this is what Greensitt and Barratt Ltd, the powerful Newcastle-based building firm promise each family planning to buy one of their houses.

But tell this to some families who waited nine months to move into their new homes on the new Westburn Estate in Crawcrook, County Durham, and they would probably either laugh or spit in your face.

For while their new homes stood empty, Greensitt and Barratt Ltd were enmeshed in a legal wrangle that has resulted in a piece of common land being struck off the register and lost forever.

The dispute centred around a patch of land through which Greensitt and Barratt were building an access road for their new housing estate.

Trouble began in January when Ryton Urban Council told Greensitt and Barratt to stop building the road as other local residents said it was registered as common land.

This being so, the new house buyers would be liable to road charges. This, and the possible illegality of building on registered common land ruined any chance of a mortgage for the unfortunate families.

So, some 50 families were unable to move into the estate. Others who did move in, however, were able to compensate Greensitt and Barratt Ltd at a none too cheap rate until their mortgages came through.

Mr Thomas Charlton, Clerk to Ryton Urban Council, claims that Greensitt and Barratt were well aware of possible difficulties that might ensue concerning the access road even before they had completed their building programme.

Mr Charlton says that Greensitt and Barratt ignored a request by his council to defer their operation until some legal clarification of land ownership concerning the road had been made.

He said: "But they continued their building programme despite the request. Now this access road, including drainage, is complete.

"If this is common land, the company has no right to put this present road in. In theory, there would be no access in or out of the estate."

Ryton Urban Council wanted assurances from Greensitt and Barratt that, if necessary, another access road would be built.

No such luck. Instead, part of the common land known as Wesley's Mount and a pool on the land were deregistered to let Greensitt and Barratt Ltd off the hook.

The Northern Rock Building Society gave the go-ahead for the mortgages and so the families at long last moved in.

It is interesting to note that Greensitt and Barratt Ltd enjoyed a bonanza set of profits for the year to June last.

Pre-tax profits soared by 60% to a record £723,000.