Bexhill residents ‘living in fear’ from ‘fire risk’ cladding

Residents living in an apartment complex in Bexhill say they are ‘living in fear’ after cladding on the seafront building was found to be a fire risk.

Adrienne Burton (left) and Elaine Stevens pictured in front of The Landmark building in Bexhill. SUS-210902-115534001
Adrienne Burton (left) and Elaine Stevens pictured in front of The Landmark building in Bexhill. SUS-210902-115534001

Surveyors have recommended major repairs to the Landmark following a safety report.

Residents have seen their insurance costs rise, as well as bills for new safety measures increase.

Some residents said their flats are now worthless and are unable to sell up.

Elaine Stevens said: “I am not sleeping and am awake at 3am wondering where I can find some money.

“We got the full report in November. They told us that the cladding underneath the render was combustible and that there were no fire breaks.

“I moved here because I needed a flat on one level, as my husband was terminally ill with cancer. He died in September 2016 and he had hoped I’d feel safe here. But I don’t feel safe here and can’t see a future. I can’t even sell this flat, as all of them are now worthless.”

She said she has had to contribute around £1,000 towards a new fire alarm system and that her share of the building insurance costs has increased by more than 400 per cent.

Adrienne Burton said the situation was ‘terrifying’ and she was ‘living in fear’.

She was planning to sell her flat this year but has had to abandon her plans.

Adrienne said: “These flats are worth zero until we get an EWS1 certificate to say the place is safe. Mortgage companies are insisting that these flats have one before they grant a mortgage.”

She added she was having to find an extra £550 a month to pay towards increased costs.

Bexhill and Battle MP, Huw Merriman, has raised the issue of the Landmark in Parliament calling for the Government to force the building industry to set up a levy to repay the cost of repairs.

The MP has tabled an amendment to the forthcoming Fire Safety Bill. If passed, the amendment would ensure that leaseholders could not be charged.

Mr Merriman said: “Residents from the Landmark have been put in an intolerable situation. We cannot continue with unsafe properties being occupied by residents paying huge sums on temporary ‘waking watch’ fire patrols and high insurance premiums.

“These residents are scared to live in their homes, unable to cover the cost of repairs and unable to sell without a vast financial loss.

“This is a national scandal and requires a national solution. I will continue to fight on in Parliament for the residents in the Landmark, and all other residents in a similar plight across the country. It should not need to come to a vote because the Government has agreed, in principle only at this stage, that leaseholders should not have to pay.

“The fund made available by the Government is only a fraction of the total cost. This fund should be enlarged and ultimately paid for by the industry responsible, not be every other taxpayer.”

Mr Merriman has also joined forces with 35 fellow Conservative MPs to deliver legal protection to leaseholders who face crippling bills to make their homes safe.

New checks on homes have been made since the Grenfell Tower fire in London, which killed 72 people in 2017.

In a statement, Oakfield Estate Agents, managing agents for the Landmark, said: “We are the appointed managing agents for Bankside Real Estate Ltd who purchased the freehold interest of the Landmark in 2016.

“The building was constructed in 2011, and unfortunately the original developers and builders of the Landmark went into administration before the build was completed.

“The bank appointed receivers to step in and see that the build was fully completed before selling of the 66 residential units and commercial unit on long leases.

“We became aware last year the Landmark has EPS material within its external wall system. This was discovered following an intrusive survey which had been instructed in order to provide an EWS1 form for assisting leaseholders with the sales of flats.

“Since the existence of EPS material has become known we have implemented a Waking Watch Service and naturally had to deal with this increased fire risk on a day-to-day basis, helping to give reassurance to leaseholders along the way.”

EPS stands for Expanded Polystyrene and is used for building insulation.

A Waking Watch service involves trained persons patrolling all floors and the exterior of a building in order to detect a fire, raise the alarm, and carry out evacuation.

Oakfield said: “We have made two separate applications for Government funding; one to the Building Safety Fund which is to claim for the remediation costs to replace the wall system, and another just made on February 1 to the Waking Watch Relief Fund after applications opened on January 31, which is to help pay for a full fire detection system to be installed at the building.

“We appreciate the cost of the Waking Watch service is financially challenging for leaseholders, and in order to facilitate the installation of a fire alarm system in its place at the earliest opportunity the building owner fronted some of the cost themselves by way of a loan.

“We are relieved the system is already on order and will be installed within the coming weeks.

“We agree this is without a doubt an awful situation for so many people and we hope the Government will find positive solutions for freeholders and leaseholders alike.”