Thousands still living in 'unsafe' buildings in Wales seven years after Grenfell disater

Seven years after 72 people died in the Grenfell Tower disaster, thousands of people across Wales are still living in buildings with serious fire safety issues.

The issue of building safety was brought to the forefront of public consciousness in 2017 when a deadly fire rapidly spread through the London tower block, accelerated by cladding which was not fire-retardant, trapping the helpless residents in their apartments.

In the aftermath of the disaster, fire safety defects were found in buildings across the UK, including hundreds in Wales.

Last year the Welsh Government signed a pact with developers to carry out remediation work at 345 buildings where issues had been identified. But 12 months later, work is yet to commence on more than half the affected buildings.

Mark Thomas, whose Cardiff Bay apartment has been deemed unsafe, has called for more urgency from both the Welsh Government and developers. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Campaigner Mark Thomas, who is part of the Welsh 'Cladiators' group, told ITV Wales’s Sharp End programme: “At the end of the day we hold developers responsible, not the Welsh Government but because developers have been so poor in their response you naturally look to the government for support.

“And one of the key things the government can do is legislate and put in a legal framework that then people can go to.

“I think we’re past the stage of talking and if this crisis is to end and not drag on for another decade then more pressure needs to be put on developers to remediate.”

Mr Thomas, whose Cardiff Bay apartment has been deemed unsafe, has called for more urgency from both the Welsh Government and developers.

Until buildings are remediated, residents usually face sky high costs for things like insurance and waking watches. It’s also impossible to sell affected properties without making a significant loss, meaning they are effectively trapped in their unsafe apartments until work is carried out.

Both Ruth Wainwright and Eileen Fletcher's husbands died before they could see the issue being resolved. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Ruth Wainwright and Eileen Fletcher both bought their apartments in Cardiff Bay for a quiet retirement with their husbands.

Sadly, both men died without seeing the issues resolved.

Ms Wainwright said: "This was our dream place really once we retired but it's turned into a nightmare within a few years."

"I have occasionally (considered selling up) over the last few years but I know what I'd be likely to get for it wouldn't buy me anything anywhere else.

Ms Fletcher said: "Every meeting you went to, there was a little bit more we heard and found out, things going wrong with the development in different parts."

Julie James MS said she was "very confident that we have a route to remediation for every single one of those affected buildings in Wales". Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

In an interview with Sharp End, Housing Secretary Julie James MS said she believed there had been a lack of urgency on the part of developers but was confident the Welsh Government’s Developers Pact will see all affected buildings made safe.

She said: “This has been a very long saga indeed and it’s had some of the most complicated things that we’ve had to navigate that I’ve ever seen in all the time I’ve been doing this kind of work.”

She added: “I’m now very, very confident that we have a route to remediation for every single one of those affected buildings in Wales.”

The Developers Pact was signed a year ago by 11 major property developers and committed to the principle that leaseholders should not have to foot the bill for remediation work. It also saw developers agree to carry out the necessary work as soon as possible but there was no specific timeframe set out within the contract.

More than 70 people died in the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14 2017 Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

The House Builders Federation, which represents British property developers, said in statement: “The industry is absolutely committed to remediating all buildings in line with Government requirements and removing any financial burden from leaseholders.

“Significant progress is being made but agreeing the scope of works and getting contracts in place with building owners, leaseholders, and other relevant parties unavoidably takes time.

“With work underway on a growing number of buildings there are also capacity limitations on specialist contractors. Developers will continue to press forward work programmes and residents can be assured that all works will be completed as speedily as is possible."

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