Residents embroiled in Grenfell-style cladding row step up their campaign
PUBLISHED: 17:00 29 March 2019
Homeowners living in a tower covered in Grenfell-style cladding have stepped up their campaign to get it removed after they were forced to flee down a "smoke-filled fire escape" when a blaze broke out.
Around 500 residents of New Providence Wharf (NPW) in Blackwall have been told they face a bill of at least £2.5million to replace the aluminium composite material (ACM) after freeholder Ballymore refused to cover the cost.
The material has been blamed for the rapid spread of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, which caused 72 deaths.
Yasmin Naqushbandi, 68, chair of the residents’ association, has taken a petition to Tower Hamlets Council and said the group will lobby the government to get the ACM panels removed.
“We had a fire in December,” Ms Naqushbandi said. “I’m 68 and live on the 12th floor and we had to run down a smoke-filled fire escape, choking on smoke. Had we collapsed inside, what would have happened?”
About 50 residents were evacuated by onsite wardens after the fire on the sixth floor on December 14, London Fire Brigade said.
Ms Naqushbandi added: “One flat was gutted. This building is full of elderly people, families and vulnerable residents. We can’t afford this bill.
“Other freeholders have covered the cost of the removal. We fear for our lives. This is urgent.”
Another resident said some freeholders were finding it impossible to sell or remortgage their properties with the cost hanging over them.
“Why should people who purchased in good faith have to face this,” she said.
“We are running out of time and will have a large bill to pay soon.”
The NPW cladding was tested just months after the Grenfell inferno. The complex has five blocks and only the original tower, built in 2005, has the flammable cladding.
Under government rules any building over 18-storeys must have ACM panels removed.
The freeholders say they face a bill of at least £5,000 each to get the panels replaced.
Ms Naqushbandi said: “All Ballymore has done is state that all maintenance and repair work has to be paid for by the leaseholders. We want them to be pressured to take it off immediately and cover the cost.”
Tower Hamlets has about 50 high rise buildings still coated in flammable cladding – more than anywhere else in the UK.
Mayor of the borough John Biggs said he had met with Ballymore on behalf of NPR residents.
Ballymore has agreed to provide an interest-free loan of up to £2.5m, with no arrangement and commitment fees, to be repaid over a period of 36 months.
The company is also making a financial contribution of 20 per cent of the loan in advance.
A spokesman for Ballymore said it was in the process of appointing a specialist façade contractor and are expected to begin later this year.