'I'm willing to fight it as long as it takes': Calls to tackle cladding fire safety issues in Wales

Cladding fire safety issues have been debated in the Senedd today (24 November) after a cross party bid to urge action is taken.

Campaigners argue that homes and livelihoods are still at risk because of unsafe cladding and many want it back on the Welsh Government's agenda. 

Leaseholder, Mark Thomas, put his life savings into a flat when he retired and now its value has halved. 

"To find it's worth less than 50% of what I paid for it is extraordinary. Frankly I feel like I've been mugged. I'm willing to fight it as long as it takes."

The motion is being debated today (24 November) in the Senedd

After Grenfell, the cladding on Mark's building was found to be a fire risk. Replacing it will cost £12 million and the developer says it's up to the leaseholders to pay.

While the Welsh Government are funding the replacement of cladding to make social housing fire safe, leaseholders for many flats are facing the cost. 

Debating in the Senedd today, the Welsh Government's Julie James said "Leaseholders have not created the issues and it's right those responsible pay to rectify them."

But Mark says if the government doesn't make that happen - or step in themselves, it'll be 'catastrophic'. 

"The bottom line is that if no-one else helps us we have to look to the leaseholders - I myself and others will have to pay. Those who can't pay will be biggest victims. Lose their homes? That sadly is the doomsday scenario."

The developers on Mark's building, Redrow, said although not the freeholder, they've provided 'significant financial support' to the management company. 

A spokesperson from Redrow said, “We’re very aware of the difficulties and uncertainty affecting residents of high rise apartments across the UK that have remedial cladding issues based on new standards.

"As a housebuilder primarily focused on delivering family homes, we only have a small number of high rise apartment blocks, which we have engaged with on a case-by-case basis. Celestia was constructed in 2006 by Laing O’Rourke under a design and build contract.

 “Despite not being the freeholder, we have provided significant financial support to the management company and we will also be providing funding through the Residential Property Developers Tax which was recently announced by chancellor, Rishi Sunak."

The motion debated today was first tabled by Plaid Cymru MS Rhys ab Owen along with the support of opposition members.

The legislative proposal supported by Mike Hedges, Swansea East MS and Peter Fox, Monmouth MS, calls for measures to ensure safe cladding on buildings.

Rhys ab Owen MS said, "I have been swamped since my election by desperate owners of high rise flats, along with leaseholders that are concerned about cladding and the fire safety of their homes.

"This is the next step in the campaign for better fire safety of high-rise buildings and the cladding that surrounds those flats."

The South Wales Central MS added: "The Welsh Government is right when they say this is a far wider issue than cladding on the exterior of buildings.

"I have seen the fire safety measures taken inside buildings like the Celestia development in Cardiff.

"Members of the Senedd have tabled this legislative proposal to raise this issue yet again.  We have people a stone's throw away from the Senedd who are not sleeping at night.

In a statement, a Welsh Government spokesperson said further support will be announced in the coming weeks: “We have been busy working to get a full picture of the scope and scale of these complex issues.

"While we have made much progress, we absolutely recognise and share the frustration of people living in homes effected by cladding and other building fire safety issues.

 “In the coming weeks we will announce further support for those in the most difficult circumstances as a result of these issues.

 “Beyond this significant ongoing programme of work we look forward to working with Plaid Cymru on this matter from December.”