Salford Quays residents face cladding bill
NEARLY 250 leaseholders in the NV Buildings in Manchester were told that cladding used on the towers is combustible, and may face a ‘huge bill’ to remove and replace it.
Manchester Evening News reported that tenants and leaseholders ‘were shocked’ to be informed by Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) that the cladding on the exterior of the towers was combustible. GMFRS carried out inspections of high rises last year across the city, and here found that the EPS cladding was ‘combustible’ and requires ‘essential work to make it safe’.
Leaseholders have stated that so far ‘nobody has accepted responsibility’ for the issue, which could mean that they ‘may end up having to pay’ to remove the cladding ‘through no fault of their own’. Due to the discovery, leaseholders have ‘had to scramble’ to make the building safe ‘in the short-term’, and are trying to work out ‘who pays to fix it permanently’.
All three blocks were constructed by Carillion in 2004 for developer Countryside, which sold the freehold to Freehold Managers (Nominees) Ltd in 2005, with the latter two organisations now ‘in discussions’ with residents over the issue. Leaseholder Peter Brown commented: ‘We feel stuck in the middle. Both I and the other 245 leaseholders have been shocked to find out that the flats we bought thinking they would be our homes are now considered unsafe because of the cladding.’
He noted in turn that ‘it’s unfair that we should have to pay for repairs to the cladding for which we’re not responsible. We are all worried about our safety and that of our families and how we are ever going to find the money to pay for it’. Mr Brown also commented that he believes the issues point to a wider ‘national housing scandal’, as beyond Grenfell’s flammable cladding – aluminium composite material (ACM) – this situation ‘shows that isn’t the only dangerous material out there.
‘There are buildings with hazardous cladding materials other than ACM that are not being counted and not included in government reports. How many I don’t know, but surely this national housing scandal is bigger than the ACM numbers alone suggest?’. A GMFRS spokesperson outlined the service’s response: ‘GMFRS has carried out fire safety compliance inspections in every residential high rise in Greater Manchester since the Grenfell tragedy, which includes the NV Buildings, and has required steps to be taken to identify the nature of cladding on buildings and whether this poses a risk to residents.
‘The Managing Agent and the Management Company for the NV building have worked with GMFRS and commissioned Fire Engineers to investigate the cladding. This identified that the Sto Render system as installed poses a risk if a fire was to occur. The Management Company and Agent have acted responsibly and implemented the mitigation measures which were recommended by the Fire Engineers including restricting the use of the car park and moving to an evacuation strategy supported by fire wardens. GMFRS has not taken any enforcement action and is committed to working with the Management Company to support them in making the building safe.
‘The Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett, Chair of the High Rise Taskforce, have also repeatedly called on the Government to provide immediate funding for every block that needs cladding stripping, and will continue to lobby ministers on this issue behalf of residents.’
After the GMFRS notice was issued, residents commissioned a structural engineer survey, which found that the cladding is ‘not only flammable, but isn’t broken up properly by barriers to stop the spread of flames’, and also established that the buildings ‘may have always been in breach of building regulations’. In response, Salford City Council ‘insists’ that the buildings complied when signed off by its building control provider Urban Vision.
John Merry, deputy city mayor at the council, commented: ‘The Building Regulations application for this development was received in February 2003 and was approved under the regulations that existed at that time. The original designer, contractor or supplier of the external system would be ultimately responsible for ensuring compliance with the Building Regulations. This is a difficult situation and we have lobbied government to step up and provide urgent funding for repairs.’
A spokesman for Countryside added: ‘Safety is our priority. At the time of completion, NV Buildings received all relevant approvals. Countryside takes very seriously the matter raised by residents at NV Buildings. We have launched an urgent investigation with the design team, requesting a comprehensive review of the building’s design and construction. This process is ongoing and we will keep residents informed on the outcome of the review.’
The news outlet concluded by noting that Freehold Managers (Nominees) Limited ‘believe[s] the contractual responsibility for the works lies with the resident’s management company, of which all flat owners are members’. A spokeswoman said: ‘We sympathise with the leaseholders’ concerns in relation to the fire safety works at NV Buildings and have already arranged to meet with the Resident Director and are offering assistance in relation to managing the situation.’