Thamesmead homeowners fear they will be lumbered with £13m bill to pay for removal of potentially-disastrous flammable cladding

By Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter

Hundreds of South-east Londoners fear they will be lumped with a £13m bill to remove potentially-disastrous flammable cladding from their tower-block homes, with one describing the situation as an ongoing “nightmare”.

Occupants of Thamesmead’s Royal Artillery Quays (RAQ) say they’re facing bankruptcy after being served a section 20 notice – the first step in being charged with the costs of fire safety repairs on their building.

While an application has been made to the government’s £1b Building Safety Fund to cover the costs, those living at the site say they’re caught in a stressful “waiting game” until there’s a decision.

Homeowner Dave Richards has lived in one of the 418 flats at RAQ for 10 years.

He also chairs the residents’ association, as well as being a part of the nationwide campaign organisation UK Cladding Action Group.

He said the potential £13m tab to fix unsafe cladding and wall insulation was the latest financial blow to residents who have already had to self-fund a “waking watch” fire warden since the defects were identified in November 2018.

That came on top of new fire alarms and fire doors, which he said totalled £800,000 for residents.

“The costs have already started to stack up, people are already struggling to survive at the moment,” he said.

“It’s a depressing scenario for the residents.”

He said a poll of 85 members of the residents’ association revealed 63 per cent feared they would be left bankrupt if no support was forthcoming.

It is estimated that remediation costs for each flat would come to roughly £40,000.

However, Mr Richards added the £13m was indicative – with the addition of 20 per cent VAT and other costs potentially seeing the project price jump to £16m.

The £1b Building Safety Fund was launched earlier this year to remove unsafe cladding and fire safety faults following the 2017 Grenfell Tower tragedy, in which 72 people died.

However, Mr Richards said hundreds of unsafe buildings across the country had applied to the fund – raising anxieties over if and when the RAQ would receive a decision.

Until the issues are resolved, those living there are locked in for an agonising wait – with their flats essentially worthless.

“It’s a waiting game. It’s going to be a long haul game for the residents – basically none of these flats will sell until they’ve been remediated,” he said.

Built by developers Barratt in 2003 with views north across the Thames and bustling Canary Wharf, the RAQ complex is part of the swathe of development which has swept alongside the river since the turn of the century

“It looks out over the docks, the airport – it’s an ideal setting that has probably now been ruined,” he said.

“I just feel that this was once a home, now it’s just a nightmare.”

Both management company Rendall & Rittner and Barratt were contacted for comment.

Pictured top: Royal Artillery Quays


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