Residents caught up in cladding crisis endure years of misery

ITV News Social Affairs Correspondent Sarah Corker reports on the ongoing cladding crisis

On the edge of the River Mersey, the Decks Development was marketed as luxury waterfront living.

More than a decade since they were completed, those living in the six blocks close to Runcorn town centre have endured years of misery caught up in the long-running cladding crisis.

“I spent a lot of time in tears, many sleepless nights. It’s been a nightmare from start to finish,” pensioner Carol Grogan told ITV News.

The 70-year-old’s dream of a peaceful retirement has been left in tatters.

The original developer has agreed to pay to fix the flammable cladding which encases her block, but the work will take years and her insurance costs have already quadrupled.

"When I first moved in I was paying £58 a month service charge, last year it went up to nearly £250 a month, because of the insurance, because of the chance of the whole place going up," she said.

'It's been a nightmare from start to finish,' pensioner Carol Grogan says

"I’m only on pension, that’s all the income I have. Even if I wanted to move out, I can’t sell the place.

"Someone was quoted a pound for their flat a few years back, that’s how much the value has gone down. Everybody is stuck here,” she added.

It’s nearly six years since the Grenfell Tower fire where 72 people died.

Fire engulfed the 24-storey block in London; the external cladding was found to have aided the rapid spread of the blaze.

The tragedy exposed decades of systematic regulatory failures.

It’s estimated more than half a million people are still living in fire risk flats.For developers, it’s deadline day. If they refuse to sign a legally binding contract agreeing to fix the unsafe buildings they built, the government will effectively ban them from the housing market; that will mean blocking them from starting new construction projects under a law which is expected to come into force in the near future.

'There are many people who will get no help whatsoever,' Julie Fraser from Liverpool Cladiators says

Six of the UK's biggest housebuilders have already put pen to paper including – Persimmon, Barratt Development, Bellway, Crest Nicholson, Redrow and Taylor Wimpey.

Between them Persimmon and Bellway confirmed they expect to pay around £860 million to ensure their buildings are safe.

Pay up, or we will force you to - that was the warning from Housing Secretary Michael Gove to developers last year, when he said the construction industry had a moral duty and responsibility to pay to fix the cladding crisis in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

It’s taken many months of debate and discussion between government and the industry to get to this point.

But the changes won’t help everyone.

Cladding campaigners estimate the contract will only cover 15% of the buildings that are affected and need remediating.

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Julie Fraser from Liverpool Cladiators said “there will be lots of people who will get no help at all.

"There are many reasons and issues that are ongoing that the government really needs to look a to free these people.

“This is now six years since the Grenfell tragedy. It should never have been allowed to get this far and taken this long,” she said.

There is still no financial help for those living in buildings under 11 metres with fire safety faults.

In East London, father of two Ben Walker is still facing a potential bill of more than £20,000 to make his home safe.

His block in Hackney is under the 11 metres height limit, so doesn’t qualify for support.

“It’s just really uncertain, we don’t know how long we will be stuck in the flat with a growing family or how much it will cost us.

“In about 2021, we found out that the cladding didn’t pass the safety tests – so we can’t rent it out, sell it or move. We don’t know when the work will be done either,” he said.

In response to ITV News' report, a government spokesperson said: “Buildings under 11 metres are very unlikely to need costly remediation to make them safe, and less expensive measures such as fire alarms are likely to be more appropriate and proportionate.

“Where work is necessary, we would always expect freeholders to seek to recover costs from those who were responsible for building unsafe homes, and not from innocent leaseholders.”