Bexhill ‘fire risk’ cladding -changes are ‘huge step forward’, say residents

Residents living in a Bexhill apartment complex have this week said Government plans to make housebuilders pay for dangerous cladding to be removed are a ‘huge step forward’.

The Observer reported last year how people living in the Landmark building said they were ‘living in fear’ after surveyors recommended major repairs to the complex after cladding deemed to be a ‘fire risk’ was found.

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

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Some said their flats were now worthless, leaving them unable to sell up.

Adrienne Burton, left, and Elaine Stevens in front of The Landmark Building in Bexhill. SUS-221201-110829001

This week Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, said no leaseholder living in a building higher than 11 metres will have to pay for fixing dangerous cladding.

In the Commons this week, he warned those who had mis-sold unsafe cladding or cut corners on homes that the Government was ‘coming for you’.

The cladding crisis has left many across the country with huge bills to fix unsafe homes.

Residents in blocks 11-18 metres high had previously been ineligible for government support to remove unsafe cladding, but Mr Gove confirmed this week the Government was scrapping ‘the proposal for loans and long-term debt for medium-rise leaseholders’.

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

Adrienne Burton, who lives at the Landmark, said: “It’s a huge step forward and much better than we hoped but there are still a lot of questions left unanswered.

“The developers that built the Landmark went under so where does that leave us?

She said work to remove the cladding was originally due to take place last September but is expected to happen between April and August this year.

Adrienne said she and other residents had to become evacuation managers themselves, as a Waking Watch scheme they had was costing around £7,000 a week.

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.

Adrienne said was planning to sell her flat last year but had to abandon her plans.

She said it was like ‘living in a tinderbox that could go up in flames’.

Bexhill MP, Huw Merriman said: “I welcome the Government’s announcement on building safety which will provide further support to leaseholders caught up in the cladding crisis.

“This goes further in forcing the construction industry and building owners to take financial responsibility for repairs and safety matters.

“I had previously indicated that I would not support legislation which left leaseholders at the Landmark to foot the bill for matters which were not of their doing.

“I will need to examine the detail of these proposals carefully to see how far they will help the leaseholders of the Landmark.

“While the Building Safety Fund will cover the cost of the cladding replacement and the new fire alarm system costs were paid for by the Government’s Waking Watch Fund, additional measures were identified in the building safety survey that are necessary to ensure the building is certified as safe again.

“Until all those measures are dealt with, residents continue to face heavy insurance bills and ongoing costs. This is not fair or just. I shall continue to work closely with Landmark residents, government ministers and officials to do everything possible to ensure their homes are safe.”

In a statement, Oakfield Estate Agents, managing agents for the Landmark, said: “At long last we are very happy to announce that the industry has reached an agreement with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) on the terms of the grant funding agreements (GFA) for the Building Safety Fund.

“A cross-sector group, including managing agents, professional freeholders, ARMA and IRPM have been working closely alongside DLUHC to deliver an agreement that will work for the various stakeholders involved and allow remediation projects to be delivered on behalf of affected leaseholders.

“This means we can now press ahead with the BSF application (stage 2) with a view to getting funding approved in the very near future.

“We are told that currently the waiting time for actual funding to be made available is between three and six months.

“While this is longer than we would like, it does at least give us light at the end of the tunnel with a very real prospect of getting the remediation work completed this year.”