Four homeowners open up to Granada Reports on the impact of the cladding crisis

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Four people living in buildings with dangerous cladding have opened up to Granada Reports on the impact it's had on their lives.

Rob Helig, Georgie Hulme, Stephen Squires and Alexandra Parry all live in buildings across Greater Manchester that have serious fire-safety defects.

It's an issue we've covered extensively on Granada Reports. Earlier this month our Senior Correspondent Elaine Willcox posted a blog on what it's been like to cover the story.

Elaine Willcox has been at the heart of the story for Granada Reports Credit: ITV Granada

Just over two weeks ago billions of pounds of extra money was promised to help flat owners and leaseholders tackle the cladding crisis. But there was criticism the funding doesn't go far enough, with many people not covered.

On Wednesday, MPs debated the government's Fire Safety Bill, which saw a number of Conservative MPs backing an amendment to the bill - intended to strengthen regulation in England in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

But No 10 blasted the amendment, claiming "it would actually slow things down."

Downing Street has insisted it has already put in place a "large package" of support for leaseholders living in blocks covered in dangerous cladding.

Later MPs reversed a Lords amendment to the Fire Safety Bill which sought to prohibit building owners from passing on any remediation costs, such as the replacement of dangerous cladding, to leaseholders and tenants.It leaves many people still wondering what the future holds.

Cladding protest Credit: It's exactly a year since protestors lobbied parliament

On Thursday evening, the Manchester Cladiators campaign group will once again meet with the government and other local political leaders to appeal for more support for people living in potentially dangerous buildings across the country. The Question-time style meeting marks exactly a year since the group travelled to London to lobby parliament.

Metro Mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram, Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service, Architect George Clarke and Minister for Building safety Lord Stephen Greenhalgh will all take part.

Here are some of the stories they're likely to hear.

Alexandra Parry - Albion Works

My name is Alexandra Parry. I’m 26 and I own an apartment in Albion Works, Manchester.

We have Polystyrene within our external walls and this all needs removing and replacing.We also have timber cladding on the external walls which needs to be removed and ourbalconies and internal fire safety issues are still under assessment. We had a waking watchin place but this was removed when we a replacement fire alarm system. However, evenafter the fire alarm was fitted, the waking watch has had to return as they have now foundthat we require more heat detectors.

In total, we were billed nearly £3,000 for the alarm and waking watch. The new heatdetectors and waking watch are looking to be of a similar price. The estimated externalissues are looking to cost around £6 million which will mean a bill of around £42,000 for meto pay.

My partner and I have been wanting to start a family and move to a house but have beenunable to do this as we cannot move until this is sorted. I do not want to start a family in anunsafe building. We are both suffering greatly with our mental health as a result of the stress of the situation. I work for a financial service and if we are forced into bankruptcy I will lose my job.

We need the Government to stop discussing the matter and take action.

Stephen Squires - Britton House

My name is Stephen Squires and I live in Britton House in the Green Quarter, Manchester.

We were first told that our building was unsafe in September 2020. We have had a wakingwatch in place since then that is costing £21,000 per month. No progress has been made to remediate the building and we are still waiting for a fire alarm to be installed.

I have not been able to sleep properly since we got the news and I lie awake at nightthinking about the mess we are in, the fact we can't move house and the huge bills we arefacing which started to arrive this month, the first quarters service charge was £5,500 andthis will continue unless we get a positive decision from the Building Safety Fund.

Our building has numerous issues including flammable cladding, render, and insulation aswell as missing fire breaks, the remediation is estimated to cost £2.79 million but this couldrise when the works start and we don't know how much, if anything will be covered by thegovernment fund.

Our lives are on hold and this has taken over everything we do. Not an hour goes by where I don't start thinking about it and I can't get through a television programme or spend time with family without my mind wandering back to cladding and the awful situation we are in.

It is now 8 months since we applied for the Building Safety Fund and we have heard nothing. Homeowners are the only people involved in this scandal who have had no part in creating it, and we are innocent victims.

Rob Helig - Moho

My name is Rob Heilig and I own and live in a flat in Moho, Manchester.

Our building is wrapped in combustible EPS insulation behind the external render; we have missing fire breaks; we have timber detailing on exterior walls which needs replacing with non-combustible materials; in order to remove the building external render, all balcony doors and windows will need to be removed and replaced; we have a lack of a Fire Alarm; we have defective paint on the steel frame, which threatens the integrity of the whole building structure, should fire break out; and we have timber balconies and walkways need replacing with non-combustible materials.

At it stands, we have had an estimated figure of £7.2M for the total remediation works. Wehave been granted £2.4M from the Building Safety Fund and we have to pay the remainderwhich works out at around £48,000 for me to personally pay.

The mental health impacts of this whole situation have been crushing. As we have no firealarms, we have been on waking watch ever since a fire in February 2019. We now entrustour safety in a couple of people wandering around the building 24/7 to effectively clear thebuilding at any time of 100 apartments in case of fire.

We have had a couple of Fire Service calls outs since the fire and it’s terrifying to see 5, 6and 7 engines pulling up outside. Every time I hear sirens I fear the worst. Living in the citycentre, there’s no shortage of flashing blue lights to keep me on edge.

The financial stress is unbearable. I am now paying 7 times what I pay for my mortgage. That includes rent to the Shared ownership company who have a 50% stake in my home, but take zero % responsibility for remediation costs.

To add to all this, I have lost any major form of income due to Covid shutting down the live music industry, in which I have been self-employed for the last 26 years. I am living mainly off savings put aside for remediation works, but as time goes on my funds are shrinking and I’ll soon be faced with some very tough decisions. Before I lost my work, my performance was noticeably suffering due to stress. I don’t sleep properly and when I do I have the worst nightmares.

It all peaked one night over a year ago with a panic attack and I ended up in A&E. I have since stopped drinking as I fear the decisions I may make trying to deal with the anxiety and worry for my increasingly dim future.

Government need to realise that fire safety issues are compounding factors made up frommore than a buzz word in the media. “Cladding” is just the tip of the iceberg. This is notabout scoring points in Parliament, and grabbing headlines to win votes. This is aboutpeople not burning to death because of decisions made by people who are lucky enough tolive in safe homes. They have legislated that many materials are now deemed unsafe, butleave leaseholders accountable to pick up the costs.

Georgie Hulme - Life Buildings

My name is Georgie Hulme and I’m a disabled leaseholder at the Life Buildings in Hulme.

My Mum died in comfort, by leaving me her accessible flat and in her mind and mine,providing me with home security for life. It breaks my heart that this is not the case andwasn’t her fault and isn’t mine. Yet I, like others, are left to pay for the mistakes and cuttingcorners of others for profit. How is this fair?

My building has a lot of issues, there is lots and lots of timber: on most of the external wallsand the balconies – we’ve been told it all has to be replaced and we have to make sure wekeep our balconies clear and sterile if we use them. We also have compartmentalisationissues and who knows what else.

My building is under 18m so we can’t access the Building Safety Fund but the buildings over 18m in my development can, which I think is very unfair as we have exactly the same issues but they’re only a little bit higher so they’ll get help while I won’t.

At this stage, I have no idea how much these costs will be, but from what we know, it’s going to be tens of thousands of pounds.  Being reliant on state benefits, it’ll be impossible for me to pay. Therefore, I can’t see a future, only bankruptcy and losing the home I love, in a community I love.

The impact is majorly impacting my health and I’m experiencing many additional symptomsthat I haven’t before. There is no break, I’m constantly thinking about the situation andworrying.

What we need from the Government is only what is fair. We don’t have time to wait, due to the risk to our lives and our futures. Nothing less will do.