Limehouse leaseholders in angry meeting with council over £2m repair bill
PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 March 2020
Homeowners in two Limehouse high-rises who have been told they will need to foot a more than £2 million repair bill because their flats “might not survive a large explosion” had an angry face-off with council staff on Monday, March 9.
In a heated public meeting residents of Brewster and Malting House told Tower Hamlets Council officers and the borough's mayor they were disappointed with the amount of information they had been given about the repairs.
Some flat owners face having to pay bills of more than £77,000 to improve the 'structural integrity' of their properties. Council tenants and leaseholders will also have to leave their flats for a period while the work, which is expected to last two years, is completed.
Interior designer Belinda Le Mesurier owns a one-bed in Brewster. She said: 'I'm a single person. I have no family in the country. You are removing my future. My flat is my pension You are taking that away. I don't understand why this is allowed.'
The blocks were built as council housing in the 1960s and contain 112 flats, with about 32 homes now privately owned. Tower Hamlets Council said the problems were found after flammable cladding was stripped from the buildings in 2018.
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Private engineers Wilde Carter Clack found the blocks required 'intrusive structural strengthening, particularly as the buildings were at risk of progressive structural collapse in the event of an explosion and possibly following an extremely intense fire, which could cause floors to buckle'. The buildings are not at risk of collapse otherwise and an explosion is unlikely as the towers do not contain piped gas.
One resident said: 'We haven't seen a risk assessment. There is no gas in the buildings. What exactly is supposed to cause this explosion? The amount of information we have been given is very disappointing.'
The council is scheduled to pass plans for the repairs at a meeting later this month.
Council properties are protected from huge bills by 'Florrie's Law'. Florence Bourne, 93, died after being unable to pay a £50,000 bill for the refurbishment of her block in Newham in 2013.
The government capped repairs at £15,000 for local authority leaseholders, but only if works are partly funded by a central government grant. If not, the council can pass on the entire cost.
Mayor John Biggs said the council expected the leaseholders to challenge the charges in court.
He told the crowd: 'I know you will be pretty stressed. It is going to be noisy, disruptive and expensive. But I don't think we have a choice. I would like you not to have to pay, but as a council we don't have the money.'
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