Sheffield tower block resident: ‘We could face £40,000 bill each to replace cladding deemed unsafe after Grenfell Tower disaster’
A Sheffield tower block resident says cladding on the building he lives in remains in place almost two years after it was deemed unsafe following the Grenfell Tower disaster.
William Martin said an inspection of cladding on the Metis Tower in 2017 found it to be unsafe – but almost two years later it remains on the building and he said leaseholders feared they might have to foot the bill themselves due to a lack of legislation.
Mr Martin, 30, said people living in the 113 flats in the tower had told him they were worried about the safety of the building as well as the possible bill of up to £40,000 each leaseholder would be left with.
Mr Martin, a student at the University of Sheffield’s Medical School, said: “Everyone is extremely concerned and even though I concerned about it from an investment point of view, I am also concerned because when I go to bed every night I can’t help but think that I am in a building that the government has deemed as unsafe.
“A week or two after Grenfell, a panel disappeared off the side of the building and this was the case for most buildings in the UK that had any kind of cladding on it.
“It was tested by the Building Research Establishment and deemed to be aluminium composite material and that, in the government's eyes, was a fail.
“We’ve had assurances from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service that when it was put on, it was in line with regulations, but after Grenfell the guidelines were changed and now it doesn’t meet them.”
Mr Martin called for legislation to make freeholders of land, rather than leaseholders, responsible for the cost of the replacement as well as extra regulations that meant they could not ‘pass on the cost’ by increasing service charges.
A total of 72 people were killed in the blaze at Grenfell, with the fire believed to have been started by a faulty fridge-freezer and then spreading in the cladding of the building.
He said: “If our tower ever went up flames, could you imagine what the headlines would be? Why has the government said what it’s said but not put any legislation in place to make the freeholders do what they recommend they do?
“This problem has been going on for 18 months and I dread to think what would happen.”
He added: “This is my home. I was a first-time buyer and saved for six years for this place. I moved from London to Sheffield so that I could afford it.
“I have decorated it and every time I open the door I think: ‘I am back in this place’ and it’s not a nice feeling and it’s really stressful.”
In a statement, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “There is nothing more important than making sure people are safe in their homes.
“We have been abundantly clear that private building owners and developers must replace dangerous cladding quickly, or they will pay more later.
“Leaseholders must be protected from these costs which is why we have put new enforcement powers in place to allow local authorities to take action where it is necessary."
It added that it was supporting councils in taking emergency enforcement action where building owners refuse to remediate high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding.
Janet Sharpe, Sheffield Council's director of housing and neighbourhood services, said: “Metis is privately owned and fire safety measures, approved by South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, have been put in place to make sure that residents are safe.
"We have advised the management company working on behalf of the owner that they can apply for government funding to pay for the cladding replacement works.
"This would mean that costs wouldn’t be passed on to people living in the building.
"We have raised this case with the government to see what else councils can do to help residents in situations like this one.”