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Combustible cladding: Romford residents could face £20,000 monthly costs to cover 24-hour fire wardens

PUBLISHED: 07:00 13 March 2020 | UPDATED: 07:36 13 March 2020

The Axis development in Mercury Gardens has combustible cladding. Picture: April Roach

The Axis development in Mercury Gardens has combustible cladding. Picture: April Roach

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Romford housing association residents say they are facing “huge bills” to cover costs for a 24-hour fire patrol and the removal of combustible cladding.

The Axis development in Mercury Gardens has combustible cladding. Picture: April RoachThe Axis development in Mercury Gardens has combustible cladding. Picture: April Roach

Last week the Recorder revealed the Axis development flats in Mercury Gardens are surrounded by potentially dangerous combustible cladding.

Vision, the property manager, started a 'waking watch' which involves two fire wardens patrolling the flats 24 hours a day.

But this service is expected to come at a significant cost to the tenants and leaseholders.

The company has since sent estimates regarding the costs of these interim measures to the residents.

At a rate of £15.45 or £12.22 per hour it could cost between £16,423 and £20,764 to pay one officer to patrol the flats for one month.

Vision is considering three different companies for the fire safety upgrades which would consist of installing radio detection in each flat hallway with a heat detector and sounder.

This could cost between £78,800 and £95,183. Once the fire alarms have been installed the cost of the waking watch would be removed.

The investigation into the cladding is expected to cost between £38,000 to £46,000.

Chloe Bell, 23, lives in Holly Court, the housing association block of Axis developments.

She told the Recorder: 'I knew nothing about these issues until my bank came and gave me a £0 valuation which was a shock.

'I am only a shared ownership owner [40 per cent] with a housing association but I have been told I have to pay 100pc of the costs.

'I am scared for everyone in the block, not only for our safety but at the prospects of being liable for huge bills that we are unable to afford.

'We are also unable to re-mortgage and sell our properties which could leave us being stuck for years with this stress.'

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Swan, the manager of Holly Court, said it was still in discussion with Vision about recovery of costs for the waking watch.

A spokeswoman said: 'The safety of our residents is paramount, so whilst we are not the freeholder of the block, we are liaising with the freeholder's managing agent to ensure that information is shared with us and our residents regarding the fire safety measures required for this building, specifically for the management of risk around the cladding and the progress also towards the finalisation of a long term solution to these issues.

Combustible cladding in high-rise buildings was brought to the government's attention after the devastating fire in Grenfell Tower. Picture: David Mirzoeff / PACombustible cladding in high-rise buildings was brought to the government's attention after the devastating fire in Grenfell Tower. Picture: David Mirzoeff / PA

'In addition to the fire safety arrangements that the freeholder has put in place, our own health and safety consultants have carried out an inspection of the internal areas to ensure fire safety measures are in place.

'We are sorry that our residents have been caught up in this national situation and would like to reassure them that our leasehold and neighbourhood teams are standing by to support Holly Court residents during this difficult time and can be contacted at Swan on 0300 303 500.'

Residents were told in a report from Vision that the property did not pass building regulations at the time it was constructed.

Chloe said: 'My point is that as a leaseholder, we shouldn't have to pay for the failures of other parties.

'I was only given the housing association apartment because I was on a lower income.

'We're being given the estimates as if they are treating us the same as all the people in the posh blocks.

'Before that we're treated very differently - we're not allowed to go into their blocks or park in their areas.

'We have all of these rules but now when it comes to the investigation we're being thrown into the same pot.

Picture: April RoachPicture: April Roach

'It just seems appalling that this is happening.'

Havering Council and the building's developer Barratt's East London insisted that the development did pass building regulations at the time.

A spokesman for Havering Council said: 'Building regulation approval for the development was sought from the council in 2003-04.

'This approval was given by the council based on the specification submitted at the time and in accordance with building regulations at the time.

'As part of this process, the council inspected the building at specific times to make sure it continued to comply with building regulations while it was being built.'

The spokesman added that the council will be visiting the building to do an independent risk assessment to review fire safety and will make sure that all the appropriate parties involved take necessary action in making the building safe for residents.

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