THE TRIBUNAL relating to the Citiscape building has heard that cladding will not be removed until costs are paid ‘either by residents or the government’.
Residents in the complex were told recently that they would have to pay £31,300 per flat to fund cladding removal and replacement. The building is owned by Proxima GR Properties, which stated it is ‘not its responsibility’ to pay for the removal and replacement of cladding that failed the government’s fire safety tests undertaken after the Grenfell Tower fire.
The £2m bill works out at £31,300 per flat, and the company has ‘denied responsibility’ in paying towards the work, stating that the recladding will only take place ‘once full funds are in place’. Last October, residents had received letters saying that they would have to pay £5,000 to £6,000 per flat to replace the cladding. Five months ago the government told the company to remove the cladding, while last month Sajid Javid, the housing, communities and local government secretary, said that the landlord ‘was responsible for ensuring resident’s safety’.
Proxima GR Properties ‘insisted that it is not obliged to cover the costs’, and warned the 93 apartments’ leaseholders that the bill ‘will increase if they delay payment’, with the £31,300 set to be ‘levied as early as March’. Residents responded by noting that the amount ‘was more than they earned in a year and that they feared for their safety’, with a group of residents releasing a statement in which they said they had been ‘left terrified by what could happen in the event of a fire’.
The site has fire wardens patrolling ‘constantly’ at a cost of around £4,000 per week, another cost that the company is ‘planning to pass on to leaseholders’. The dispute is ‘one of the first to affect private blocks’, with many councils and social landlords nationwide having ‘largely agreed’ to cover the costs of emergency cladding replacements.
IBTimes has now reported that a property tribunal held relating to the case has been told that the removal will not begin ‘until £2m in costs are paid, either by residents or the government’. FirstPort, the company managing the development, stated that the total bill is over £132,000 when including the costs for fire marshals ‘employed around the clock’ for £4,000 per week.
Robert Bowker, counsel for FirstPort, told the tribunal: ‘The longer matters remain unresolved, the [longer] continuation of the fire watch costs will be incurred and that is something that is both in the interests of the applicant and respondent to resolve.’ It had originally estimated the cladding would cost under £500,000 before increasing it to £2m, with work not set to begin until September ‘at the earliest’ due to the revision of the costs.
FirstPort added that it had ‘no other funding options’ after being denied a loan by the Royal Bank of Scotland, with Paul Atkinson, FirstPort’s regional director, commenting that ‘the bank wouldntt lend to us for that but they would be willing to lend to individual leaseholders’. When asked what would happen if the money was not found, he added that ‘it is difficult. We know we don’t have the capacity to loan as much as required.
‘We were with the MP for Croydon a few weeks ago urging him to speak to a [Department for Communities and Local Government] minister, which he did’. The cladding could be removed now for about £5,000 per resident, and scaffolding would be used to protect the building in the meantime and ‘would mean that it would no longer be necessary to employ the fire wardens.
On behalf of the leaseholders, counsel Amanda Gourlay said that the use of fire marshals ‘was never supposed to be a long-term solution’, and that FirstPort should have ‘installed a common fire alarm system instead’. The judge in charge meanwhile stated that any decision made in the tribunal ‘would not set a precedent for future cases of this sort’, commenting that ‘any decision we come to cannot be read across to another block of flats. It doesn’t set a precedent’.