From the North: The cladding scandal - what is it like to live in an apartment classified as 'unsafe'?

Residents living in high-rise blocks with unsafe cladding say they feel trapped and "totally abandoned by the government" as companies "profiteer" from necessary safety works.

Danielle Willamson, owns an apartment at Vallea Court, in Manchester's Green Quarter. despite having its cladding removed it failed a subsequent safety inspection with the lowest possible score.

The result makes it what is believed to be the first high-rise in the country to fail after having specific work done to fix fire safety problems.

The tower was among the first to be identified as having the same flammable cladding as Grenfell Tower - residents were told just a month after the London tragedy in June 2017.

Developers and a consortium covered the costs to replace the cladding, but following an External Walls survey - introduced by the Government after the tragedy, residents were taken back to square one after the results came back.

Danielle said: "It was really really upsetting there has been a lot of tears, both from a financial point of view, both from a financial point of view - we can't really get our heads around the figures at the moment, but also our lives are just on pause.

"There are so many people that want to move. I know coronavirus has made people realise what they want from their homes, I know lots of people want gardens, they want children, they want to start looking after their parents, we just cannot move.

"I would say that's almost as bad as the financial implications - we just feel stuck. We were absolutely gutted."

Jake Brammer, lives in Millennium Court, in Salford Quays, and bought his flat after the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

He did all the relevant checks, and was assured his building was safe and "totally fine", but now faces an £80,000 bill to fix problems which have been found.

Jake said: "It's not only the financial impact but it's the mental health impact as well. Firstly of living in a home that's considered dangerous and then the reality of essentially your home being taken away from you and facing bankruptcy, and that's what we're all facing ultimately.

"[During the pandemic] I've been living breathing 24/7 the scandal, you can't get away from it. You're staring at the same four walls, knowing those four walls are unsafe."

Both Jake and Danielle say they believe the high costs charged by companies to ensure their apartments are safe are unfair.

Danielle said: "I think on top of everything people are profiteering out of this."

In response the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We have been clear throughout that owners and industry should make buildings safe without passing on costs to leaseholders – and we will ensure they pay for the mistakes of the past with a new levy and tax to contribute to the costs of remediation.

“We know many people are worried – which is why our priority is making sure residents are safe and feel safe in their homes by removing dangerous cladding from the highest risk buildings as quickly as possible backed by over £5 billion.

“Government did not introduce the EWS1 process - the updated EWS1 guidance from RICS means nearly 500,000 leaseholders should no longer need a form to sell their homes and we continue to encourage a sensible, proportionate approach to risk.”

Danielle and Jake spoke to Elaine Willcox as part of the From the North podcast, where they discussed what it is like to live in an apartment you have been told is not safe and you cannot move or sell.

They are now taking their protest to Manchester Town Hall, to urge Ministers and local authorities to tackle the issue once and for all.

The interview, and other episodes of the From the North podcast, are available to stream wherever you get your podcasts from.