Prime Minister refuses to offer help on Bridge House cladding

Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who thinks nothing of getting rich party donors to pay for lavish gold flock wallpaper costing tens of thousands of pounds for his Downing Street flat, has this week refused to offer help to hard-pressed residents in a Croydon block who are facing bills of £23,000 each to have dangerous, potentially flammable cladding removed.

Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones raised the issue of Bridge House, a block on Waterworks Yard, just off Surrey Street, at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

“My constituents in Bridge House, Croydon, live in flats covered in dangerous cladding that will cost millions to remove,” Jones told the House of Commons.

“They are not eligible for the government’s building safety fund because it is the ‘wrong’ type of cladding.

Crisis: Bridge House residents face bills of £23,000 each to remove dangerous cladding

“Can the Prime Minister confirm: do my constituents have to pay the £23,000 each that they are being charged to remove this cladding, or does he have a better plan?”

According to the specialist website, since the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, when 72 people perished as fire caught hold outside the block through its cladding, it is estimated that nearly 24,000 people live in residential blocks which are covered in potentially dangerous cladding. As many as 600 blocks could be affected.

But Johnson’s off-hand reply to the Croydon MP did not offer much hope for the long-suffering Bridge House residents.

“If the honourable Lady’s constituents are being told that they do not have to remove that cladding, then the answer is, ‘No’,” Johnson said.

“It is very, very important that this House should recognise that too many buildings have been unnecessarily – unfairly, I believe — categorised as dangerous and unsafe. Of course we must remove dangerous cladding, and we are doing that, but I want householders and leaseholders — people living in flats across this country — to have the confidence that they can do so in safety, and that is what this government are doing.”

Or, more accurately, what this government is not doing.

Despite pledges made in the immediate aftermath of Grenfell that the government would underwrite the removal and making safe of cladding on other affected blocks, in the four years since, the Tories have left it to the building owners and developers to sort out the issues.

One block in Croydon, Citiscape, on Drummond Road and Frith Road in Old Town, earlier this year became the first to be bought back by its builders in order to resolve issues around the building’s dangerous Grenfell-like aluminium composite material cladding.

There is no such solution on offer for the leaseholders and tenants in Bridge House, who have had a tough year dealing with less-than-attentive managing agents, including sometimes going for days without any reliable water supplies.

“While it’s right to put residents of cladded buildings first, the leaseholders should not have to bear the brunt of required building alterations, not to mention the inability to sell – particularly as they had no idea that these financial burdens would be imposed when they first purchased them,” said Ruban Selvanayagam, of home-buying company Property Solvers.

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9 Responses to Prime Minister refuses to offer help on Bridge House cladding

  1. mikebweb says:

    Hang around!!! If the cladding has been declared unsafe by a qualified agency, not just what the residents think, then THEY ARE entitled to compensation, this si what the PM actually said.

    Lets not make an issue out of something that isn’t!

    • The fact that they have been denied compensation thus far would suggest otherwise.

    • Dan Maertens says:

      There’s a difference between cladding that falls under the category of Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) that is the same or similar to the type that was used on Grenfell Tower, and other cladding materials that may be defective and pose some form of fire risk that in the opinion of whoever has carried out an inspection survey, and which needs to be dealt with or rectified.

      A large number of high rise residential buildings had cladding removed immediately following the Grenfell tragedy to determine exactly what type of cladding had been installed, and whether there were air gaps which could cause a similar risk of fire spread. This has also highlighted issues with the quality of build and lack of proper fire stopping and fire barriers, which require cladding to be removed in order for remediation to take place, irrespective of whether the cladding material itself is potentially flammable (ACM type).

      The issue is principally related to whether buildings will continue to be insured against fire – many insurers will not continue to provide cover without there being a valid EWS1 Certificate (for buildings over 6 storeys or 18m in height) in place. Problems highlighted in a EWS1 survey are not limited to flammable cladding but include structural safety issues, missing fire protection measures and dangerous timber balconies. They are also not directly related to the height of the building as more and more insurers expect there to be a EWS1 Certificate irrespective of the number of storeys that the building has – concern is now being focused on buildings between 11m & 18m in height. But all work on tall buildings is costly, as quoted by Sarah Jones, because they often include the requirement for specialist access equipment, structural changes as well as the removal of cladding.

      Currently, leaseholders are responsible for paying for these remedial costs, usually by way of service charge via their leases. This situation is because the Government refused to include protection for leaseholders in the legislation (Fire Safety Act 2021), leaving them with potentially crippling costs. Government grants are limited and only apply to the replacement of flammable cladding of ACM type. The alternative is to make a claim against the original builder or their new home warranty provider, but that too may be prohibitively expensive, with no guarantee of success.

  2. John Harvey says:

    Would an elected mayor be able to do anything about this?

  3. I’m confused.

    Why didn’t Sarah Jones MP explain why it’s the ‘wrong type of cladding’ and therefore does not qualify for a grant? in her question to Johnson. Clearly he was confused too by her statement and therefore she left the door open to him to simply rebuff her.

    The question should have been why are residents being told no.

    Has she been taking clarity lessons from Steve Reed OBE?

  4. Lewis White says:

    As time goes by, I am sure that more and more defective buildings will be found, and that products once deemed safe to use will be found to be unsafe when used as they have been, with built-in flaws such as air gaps, as noted in Dan’s very informative response, which allow fire to spread vertically inside the outer skin of the building.

    Gazing further into my crystal ball, (made in China in flammable clear plastic) I see that almost everyone is to blame–people who devised fire tests that failed to replicate real life conditions, specialist product designers, product sales people, product inspectors, building designers, building inspectors, builders (those who fixed products leaving out key items that would have stopped fire spread), building managers and supervisory staff) . Alone or in combination.

    Everyone that is, except the innocent purchaser of a flat in a defective building. The person to whom many developers and government expects to stump up a very great deal of money to rectify someone else’s mistakes or deliberate errors.

    Another irony is that the original architects of many such blocks are too often dubbed ” brutalist designers of concrete monstrosities”. It was not the concrete that caught fire. It was the retrofiited cladding.

    Testing of cladding products clearly needs to be life-like. Inspection of buildings in progress improved and stringent.

    Puchasers of flats in such structures need to be covered by some protection . How about some kind of “Building to be ft for purpose” insurance.

    Would any insurer dare to take such risks on ? Maybe, at a premium as sky high as the tower blocks being clad.

    Glad I live in a 2 storey house made of brick. I feel very sorry for anyone who invested money and hope and enthusiasm of a brighter future in theior own ne whome, who bought a stake in a new home in a block later found to be defective.

    They should not be shouldering ANY of the rectification costs.

  5. Seems about par for the course with this lot, whose priorities seem to be sending millions of pounds to the French to stop refugees and asylum seekers arriving at the same time as cutting millions of pounds from poor people here, be it in terms of regressive NI or clawing back the (albeit stingy) £20 lockdown addition.

  6. Pingback: Prime Minister refuses to offer help on Bridge House cladding – Birmingham Leaseholder Action Group (BrumLAG)

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