Leaseholders to hold cladding crisis protests around the UK this weekend
With Grenfell’s fourth anniversary approaching, leaseholders around England and Wales will protest outside property developers’ offices on June 5 over fire safety issues and remediation bills. Find your local protest here
The Grenfell Tower disaster has intensified the conversation around fire safety issues in residential buildings in the UK. Image credit: ChiralJon/Flickr
Fed–up leaseholders will hold National Day of Developer Protests this weekend to stand against the property developers they blame for fire safety issues in their homes, as well as the skyrocketing bills to fix them in the ongoing cladding crisis.
More than 17 protests are slated to take place across England and Wales on Saturday June 5. Find your nearest protest below.
What is the cladding issue?
The row over fire safety in buildings around the UK intensified following the Grenfell Tower disaster, which killed 72 people in 2017.
Investigations into the tragedy blamed the aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding for the rapid spread of the fire and, in order to prevent a repeat of the disaster, discussions began on how to remove the same cladding from other buildings.
This has seen new legislation, in the form of the Fire Safety Act, new regulations and recommendations from Phase 1 of the Grenfell Inquiry to improve fire safety.
The Grenfell Inquiry findings stated that building owners and managers should be responsible for taking further action on fire safety.
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As well as the removal of cladding, many buildings have other fire safety defects that have been uncovered either since the building was constructed or as a result of changing rules.
Why are leaseholders protesting?
The true scale of the issue is still unclear and the UK government’s £5bn fund to remove cladding, alongside other funding, has been described as not enough to fix all the issues. The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee estimated the bill would be closer to £15bn to cover the cost of fixing every fire defect in high–rise buildings.
The row has seen delays in removing cladding while leaseholders have faced bills of thousands of pounds to fix issues, threatening to cause homelessness or financial ruin in some cases. Meanwhile the value of affected properties has severely reduced, meaning leaseholders have no option but to stay in the buildings even though many have been declared unsafe.
This sparked anger at the property developers who built the properties in the first place, making them the main target of this weekend’s protests.
An MHCLG spokesperson said: “We know many people are worried – which is why our priority is making sure residents are safe and feel safe in their homes by removing dangerous cladding from the highest risk buildings as quickly as possible backed by over £5 billion.
“We have been clear throughout that owners and industry should make buildings safe without passing on costs to leaseholders – and we will ensure they pay for the mistakes of the past with a new levy and tax to contribute to the costs of remediation.”
What have residents said about the issue?
Residents told The Big Issue they are angry about facing bills to fix issues with buildings that are not of their own making.
Jenni Garratt, 24, who lives at Sheffield’s Wicker Riverside buildings, said: “Unless there’s some sort of support and actual acceptance of responsibility, we are not going to move forward and millions of people are still going to be trapped.
“I don’t understand how there is not a more forceful holding to account of developers at the moment, because there are these big huge building companies that are making profits while all of them have buildings with people trapped in this situation.
“I can’t understand how they are allowed to continue to operate in this way when they’re putting millions of lives at risk.”
At Poplar’s New Providence Wharf, the UK government told The Big Issue that it was “deeply disappointed” with developer Ballymore for delays in beginning work to remove cladding at the building following a May 7 fire.
New Providence Wharf resident Nadim Ahmad, 43, told The Big Issue: “The developer of this block has not made changes over six months, even after the government had said: “Get a move on.”
“I think that’s where the issue is. I think the challenge that the government has is that it is a complex problem, but complex problems require stronger leadership and I think that’s where the department for housing perhaps needs to have a wake up call itself.”
For more stories of residents hit by the building safety crisis, buy next week’s Big Issue magazine, available from vendors across the UK on June 7.
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