Fearful residents of a Newcastle apartment block with dangerous cladding are “desperate for some good news”, as campaigners plead with the government to ensure they are not forced to pay the huge costs of essential fire safety repairs.
MPs and peers voted against attempts to protect leaseholders from having to pay to remove flammable cladding like that linked to the Grenfell Tower blaze.
Critics of the controversial Fire Safety Bill, which has been the subject of a lengthy battle in Parliament and was called “indefensible” by Grenfell survivors, say that some homeowners could now be liable for crippling costs of up to £50,000 after late attempts to amend the legislation were rejected.
A separate House of Commons select committee also published a report on Thursday calling for the government and building industry to fully fund the potential £15 billion cost of removing dangerous cladding and resolving other fire safety defects.
At the St Ann’s Quay building on the Newcastle Quayside, leaseholders of its 91 flats have been warned they could be left with a £2 million bill if funding applications are unsuccessful.
As well as featuring aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding, St Ann’s also has problems with cavity fire stopping that would help stop a blaze from spreading and also has timber balconies.
Louise Richley, director of the St Ann’s Quay management company, said: “Our leaseholders are now desperate for some good news, their lives are literally on hold until there is a resolution. I’ve not been able to provide any positive news recently and they continue to live in unsafe homes through no fault of their own.
“We have been running a strong campaign and are extremely grateful for all the help and support we have received. Leaseholders across the country bought in good faith and I hope these issues can be moved forward as quickly as possible so the remediation works can begin.”
Earlier this year, Housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced a new £3.5 billion fund and promised that leaseholders in high-rise blocks above 18m will face no costs for cladding remediation work.
It is hoped that St Ann’s will be eligible for money from that pot, but the location has been rejected from previous government funds due to the complexity of its safety failings.
Thursday’s select committee report recommended that a ‘Comprehensive Building Safety Fund’ be established, which would apply to all high-risk buildings of any height and cover all costs.
Ms Richley welcomed the “incredibly positive” findings of the inquiry, though it remains to be seen how the government will respond and said there should be no difference between the issues of removing combustible cladding and repairing other fire safety defects which put residents’ lives at risk.
She added: “In relation to St Ann’s Quay, we have heard nothing further about our application to the Building Safety Fund but are very relieved to hear the suggestion that the fund may be widened to cover the associated fire safety issues including cavity barriers and inadequate insulation.
“It continues to be the case that the building industry should fund the historic remediation costs, not the taxpayer, but given the lack of regulation in this area, unscrupulous builders and Developers have gotten away with these despicable practices.”