Milestone for Portishead residents "in limbo" as cladding replacement approved
- Credit: Huw James
Portishead residents caught up in the fire safety scandal have hit a major milestone with the first block granted permission to remove its combustible cladding.
People living in 110 at the Quay will be able to stay in their apartments while the project to install safe, similar looking materials is carried out.
They have lived “in limbo” for months and said until the work begins the “intolerable financial burden” of waking watches to warn them if a fire breaks out – a measure insisted on by insurers – will continue.
That uncertainty continues for residents of six other buildings around Portishead Marina who are drawing up plans to replace their cladding. Meanwhile they fear for their safety and their financial future, with government grants looking unlikely.
North Somerset Council is being urged to fast-track applications for remedial work to prevent any further delays.
More than 40 people supported the plans for 110 at the Quay. One of them wrote on the council’s planning portal, which hides commenters’ names: “In 2013, like many other leaseholders at 110 At The Quay, I made a major investment and bought a home for my retirement in a “quality” building.
“Eight years on we are facing crippling and unforeseen costs for faults that are not of our making.
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“Please support and expedite the approval of this planning application as a matter of urgency, and thus bring to an end the stress and worry under which we have all been living.”
Another said: “We are at the moment, and have been for some time, since these problems were identified, living in limbo! We have no idea when the work will commence or exactly how much the overall costs for each apartment will be.
“This delay and uncertainty regarding costs has and is causing a great deal of anxiety and fear that we are living in an apartment complex that has been deemed unsafe.
“Each apartment owner is already thousands of pounds out of pocket due to having to fund a ‘fire watch patrol’ which we will have to continue to fund until building works commence.”
Others criticised Crest Nicholson, which built 110 at the Quay, saying it should be forced to cover the cost of the work.
A recent House of Lords amendment to the Fire Safety Bill calling on Whitehall to pay the cost up front and recover it from developers and manufacturers was defeated.
North Somerset MP Liam Fox has tabled an amendment to the Bill to address a previous attempt’s “failure to offer a plausible source of funding for remediation costs” and “its inability to protect leaseholders from unaffordable interim fire safety costs”.
He proposed a mechanism to reclaim remediation and interim fire safety costs from developers and other responsible parties, saying: “By providing a new non-governmental source of funding for the remediation of non-compliant buildings, public funds can be focused on buildings that were compliant, but are now seen as unsafe.”
Crest Nicholson said it had obtained all of the statutory design approvals that were required.
It said: “[Building warranty provider] the NHBC accepted a claim on this building in 2019 for remedial works to be carried out and we understand that it has been liaising with the management company to ensure that the works are carried out.
“To replace the need for a waking watch, and as additional measure to ensure safety of residents until the NHBC and building owner resolve the works, Crest Nicholson paid in full for the installation of an alarm system throughout the building.”
It said the decision to introduce a waking watch in addition to the alarm system was made by the managing agent, not Crest Nicholson.
An NHBC spokesperson said: “Claims relating to remedial work at 110 at the Quay in Portishead have been accepted in accordance with the cover provided by our Buildmark policy. Any claims received for properties on the Portishead Marina that have a NHBC policy will be considered under the cover we provide.”
The government has made £5billion available to fully fund the cost of replacing unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings 18 metres and over.
However, most of the apartment blocks in Portishead are below that threshold. Leaseholders will be offered loans to cover the costs, repayable at £50 a month, but the scope of the work is limited to replacing the cladding.
North Somerset Council has written to government asking it to review the funding available to residents and replace the offer of loans with grants.