This morning, at her request Fleur met with the Minister for Building Safety, Lord Stephen Greenhalgh, and representatives from four blocks in Putney affected by the cladding scandal to seek progress on each buildings individual issues and the wider building safety scandal. The meeting was positive and constructive and Lord Greenhalgh agreed to take forward several action points in relation to each block ,and look at the policy implications of some of the thematic issues raised.
Those in attendance were:
The Riverside Quarter
The SWISH Building
See below a summary of the issues discussed
The Riverside is developed and owned by Frasers Property Ltd. Shortly after the Grenfell fire, eight of the buildings failed fire safety tests and Frasers told leasees in the four older blocks that, since it had no remaining financial interest in the buildings, under leasehold law those leasees would have to pay. So it fixed the cladding in four blocks but would not fix it in the other four blocks.
Although Frasers has been able to secure funding through the building safety fund for three of the four remaining blocks, the fourth block was denied funding due to a slightly different final coat of render being used. The internal fire risks are identical in all four blocks, but this seemingly arbitrary technicality resulted in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government turning it down.
On 15 December last year, Frasers sent a notice that under its lease terms it will be charging the 204 leaseholders over £4.2 million for unfunded fire repair costs. Charges per flat will be as high as £72,000, on top of those 204 leaseholders having to pay £170,000 a year between them for waking watch, which they call sleeping watch. This is a prime example of developers who are also freeholders ignoring the Secretary of State’s stated intentions.
Wider points were raised on the scope of the Building Safety Fund, how to deal with developers who own the freehold and huge hikes in insurance
Over two years ago, unsafe, non-ACM cladding was discovered on the Swish. It has been at stage 2 of the building safety fund application for over a year. The timber part of the application has been rejected and the freeholder, Tapestart Ltd, is nowhere to be seen.
Work to fix the cladding should have started in September 2021, yet residents are nowhere even close to receiving approval for funding. There has been delay after delay, with no clear transparency from the managing agent, Trinity Estates.
The issue of the long delays to the Building Safety Fund was discussed at length, as was the severe toll the crisis has been taking on the mental health and wellbeing of the residents.
Unsafe cladding was discovered at Hardwicks Square following an EWS1 assessment in 2018 in which it scored a B2 rating. Residents applied to the building safety fund over a year ago. They were left in the dark about the application for nine months, but then told that there were more defects than had been thought, so the application needed to go back to the drawing board. It is still pending and they are still waiting.
They are currently paying for waking watch to the tune of £45,000 a month and have had an eye-watering 500% insurance hike.
Mill Court is under 11m and it does not come within the remit of the building safety fund. Yet residents have been told they face costs of around £1 million for remediation works. Lord Greenhalgh said he was “appalled” when he heard about the case and Optivo’s extensive remediation plans for such a small building. However, Optivo is still intending to move ahead with remediation works, subject to the announcement of further Government guidance.
Other issues raised by Mill Court were the ineffectiveness of taking retrospective legal action against past developers and the need for a Polluter Pays amendment in the Building Safety Bill.