Citiscape, the Barratts-built residential tower block on Drummond Road and Frith Road in Old Town, has become the first in Britain to be bought back by its builders in order to resolve issues around the building’s dangerous Grenfell-like aluminium composite material cladding.
But despite leaseholder organisations saying that developers have “a moral duty” to consider buying back such properties and the Housing Ombudsman urging landlords to explore similar buybacks, Citiscape’s 95 flat-owners may end up being the only ones to escape the home-owning dream that has turned into a nightmare for thousands. For Barratts, at least, say they have no plans to buy back other blocks.
Barratt had already paid out £56million to fix fire safety and structural problems on its “legacy properties”, principally Citiscape, as Inside Croydon reported earlier this year. Barratt Developments say they have committed £163million to deal with other cladding issues.
It is estimated that the developer will have spent more than £30million to buy the Citiscape flats from leaseholders, for properties which might otherwise have been valueless and unsellable, since lenders have been refusing to offer mortgages on homes associated with flammable cladding.
Barratt discovered failures with the reinforced concrete frame at Citiscape during a review of its developments in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.
The Grenfell fire, which killed 72 people, exposed deficiencies in the building safety regime and the potential abuse of safety tests by companies supplying the cladding and insulation to those homes.
Citiscape leaseholders were moved out of their building in September 2019 and Barratt paid for their accommodation until the end of 2020.
It has been reported that Barratts are also buying the building’s freehold from a company controlled by Vincent Tchenguiz, the property tycoon.
Barratts are understood to be pursuing a legal claim against Citiscape’s design company, and that they could demolish the block to make way for a new development.
A review of high-rise residential buildings in England after Grenfell has uncovered serious failings beyond cladding issues at some sites. Thousands of leaseholders have faced years of uncertainty over who will cover the cost of remediation work.
The government has created a £5.1billion fund to cover some of the costs of removing flammable cladding designated unsafe. Flat-owners in blocks below 18 metres in height have been offered loans only.
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