Residents move out over fire safety issues
TENANTS IN a Catalyst owned block in South Kilburn have had to move out so that work to ‘rectify’ a series of fire safety issues discovered can be undertaken.
Inside Housing reported on the housing association’s plans to repair the fire safety issues after moving out tenants from 50 homes in the Merle Court development. Residents were told last month that they would be moved out of the seven storey block, with Catalyst stating that the work ‘could take up to two years’, with ‘no guarantee’ residents would be able to move back in once it has been completed.
The building was found to have been clad in aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding during the government’s fire safety tests undertaken in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. As a result, measures put in place since to ‘ensure residents are able to live in the block’ include a 24 hour waking watch, firestopping work and replacing some of the cladding around the building’s entrance.
Despite this, Catalyst states that changes to the building regulations – namely the ban on combustible materials announced late last year – have meant that the amount of work needed on the building ‘significantly increased’, with the building to now see removal and replacement of its brickwork and cladding to enable the company to ‘rectify defects, replace insulation and undertake other works’.
These other works include replacing high pressure laminate cladding on certain walls, installing fire breaks and changing insulation throughout the building, with the nature and timescale of the work required meaning ‘it would be too disruptive for residents to continue living in their homes’, necessitating them having to move out.
Residents have raised concerns about the rehousing process, while Kilburn councillor Abdirazak Adbi stated that ‘the residents are concerned and rightly so. We are also worried they will not be rehoused locally’. Catalyst is looking at an offer to residents expected to be approved this month, but admitted it could take ‘up to 18 months’ to move them out in order to start work, with an outline offer to rental tenants seeing them meet to work out preferences.
The company also promised to ‘try to permanently rehouse’ tenants where possible so that ‘they only have to move once’, while residents will be paid £6,300 each as part of the government’s Home Loss payment. Any moving costs will also be covered by Catalyst, while shared owners will be offered the opportunity to have their homes bought back by the association at current market value, or given the option to buy another Catalyst property.
Inside Housing stated this was the second block owned by the association to have fire safety issues with Dan Court in Park Royal also having ACM cladding, on which work is due to begin soon and which will not require residents to move out. A Catalyst spokesperson commented: ‘After extensive and thorough investigations into the construction of the block it became clear that there was a huge amount of work to be done beyond simply replacing the ACM cladding that would cause significant disturbance to those living there, and some damage to flats internally.
‘While we recognise that we could have acted more quickly, the complexity and extensive nature of the remedial works required firm assurance that designs and materials would be compliant with the anticipated change in regulations. Despite this, we followed the fire authority guidance to ensure residents remain safe at all times as soon as we confirmed the ACM cladding was non-compliant.
‘We have not taken the decision to rehouse everyone lightly; it has taken time to explore every option available and to arrive at the right decision. Over recent months we have pulled together a new project group that meets weekly and is chaired by a member of our executive team and we have made a firm commitment to communicate more clearly and regularly with residents.’