By Harry Scoffin
The borough home to the highest number of unsafe residential developments with funding applications lodged with government – 282 – will today hear from LKP chair Martin Boyd and trustee Liam Spender as part of a special two-hour Zoom conference.
Mr Boyd and Mr Spender join a line-up for the Tower Hamlets Building Safety Conference that includes John Biggs, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets; Unmesh Desai, the Member of the London Assembly for City and East; Rushanara Ali, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow; and Rabina Khan, Councillor for Shadwell and Liberal Democrat special advisor.
Free tickets are still available for the leaseholder and shared owner meeting and can be booked through Eventbrite here.
Tower Hamlets Building Safety Conference
Eventbrite – Dave Richards presents Tower Hamlets Building Safety Conference – Tuesday, 15 June 2021 – Find event and ticket information.
Jointly organised by London Cladding Action Group (LondonCAG), Tower Hamlets Justice for Leaseholders (THJL) and Friends in High Places, the event comes a month after the blaze at New Providence Wharf in Blackwall that was said to be “minutes” from claiming fatalities.
New Providence Wharf fire was ‘minutes’ away from being another Grenfell Tower
“The building’s on fire! Get out!” Nadim Ahmad’s wife, Aneela, screamed down the phone. Three minutes earlier she had left their flat on the 14th floor of an upmarket Thameside block, near Canary Wharf in east London, to take their three daughters to school.
Thames Water representative Simon Moore will speak about the local water infrastructure and the facilities and supply required to keep pace with the scale of development in the area. On May 7, New Providence Wharf residents filmed firefighters appearing to struggle to achieve sufficient pressure to fight the blaze. It would take more than 120 firefighters and over three hours to stop the fire.
Thames Water warns ‘sewers won’t cope’ at 16 major developments on Isle of Dogs and nearby
Published: 3:25 PM April 3, 2018 Updated: 8:50 AM October 14, 2020 Sewer and drainage capacity on the Isle of Dogs may not be able to cope with the 10 massive redevelopments now under way along the Thames, it has emerged.
New Providence Wharf, the upmarket east London site with Grenfell-style ACM cladding, wooden balconies and other concerns, has played host to an unedifying four-year tug of war between leaseholders and the original developer Ballymore, which also acts as freeholder and managing agent, over who should pay for the safety critical works.
Only days before a second protest at a Ballymore development in the heavily built-up Marsh Wall did the company relent, pledging to leaseholders in an internal communication that it would cover the £3.1m shortfall in government funding for the remediation of Block D which had been outstanding on the day of the fire.
Natalie Carter, a co-founder of THJL and leaseholder at New Providence Wharf who will open the conference tomorrow evening, fears that despite the concession from Ballymore, the freeholder will play all the angles of leasehold to make up for it:
“We just don’t feel there’s any protection from them raising our service charges further to recoup the money that they’re ending up having to spend … leasehold is just a complete racket.”
In an article on the four years of unsafe high-rise housing since the Grenfell Tower fire that also cites LKP research by Lucy Brown-Cortes on the financially devastating impact of waking watch fire warden contracts, Ms Carter explained to the New Statesman that she has suffered a 53 per cent rise in service charges in just four years – unrelated to cladding.
Tinderbox Britain: Four years after the Grenfell Tower fire, the cladding crisis rages on
It was 8.51am on 7 May 2021, a Friday morning like any other for Nadim Ahmad, a 43-year-old chief financial officer living in east London. Absorbed in a work call, he had just held the front door open for his wife Aneela and their three young daughters to rush off to school, late as usual.
The issue of spiralling service charges has also been picked up by the Evening Standard, which spoke to LKP chief executive Sebastian O’Kelly on the regulatory fallout from Grenfell:
“A whole load of buildings have been dragged into the crisis which should not have been,” said O’Kelly. “There are many low-rise sites that are at very minimal fire risk – perhaps they have a tiny amount of ACM cladding. But all the professionals are so scared of liability that they are erring on the side of caution.
“Only one out of 10 sites pass the EWS1, they can fail for a whole host of reasons, not just cladding, and some don’t even have a date for one to be carried out.”
“What they are doing, though, is dumping the costs on the leaseholders who are the innocent parties,” he said.
Cladding scandal: I can’t afford £8k service charges on my unsafe flat
ext week London marks a grim anniversary. Four years ago on June 14, a fire broke out at Grenfell Tower which killed 72 and left many more injured, traumatised and homeless. But for thousands more, like Natalie Carter, the day is more than a time for reflection and remembrance.
As the borough with the highest number of leasehold properties in the country and many supertall apartment buildings crowding the Isle of Dogs and the surrounding area, Tower Hamlets is adversely impacted by the building safety crisis and leasehold flats scandal.
In November, the council passed a motion backing the asks of campaign group End Our Cladding Scandal and noted that outside of “national charities like Leasehold Knowledge Partnership”, “residents are having to become experts on these issues but with no support nor assistance”.
“The NLA Tall Building Survey 2020 shows 78 tall buildings in the planning pipeline in Tower Hamlets with 18 completed in 2019. Both numbers are substantially in excess of any other Borough,” said the motion.
The previous year saw Tower Hamlets pass a motion on “restoring fairness to the leasehold system”, making it the first London borough to formally endorse commonhold as a fairer form of flat ownership, as reported by LKP at the time.
The council is currently looking at voluntary pledges and other initiatives, including non-binding planning guidance, to raise developer standards and encourage installation of resident management companies on new sites, allowing purchasers to control their charges and service provider from the beginning and without having go through the right to manage process, until a reformed commonhold becomes law.
Would it be possible for LOK to organise a group to lobby Parliament on the cladding scandal? I am not on any social media, but my name could be included via email or letter if such lobbying could be implemented?
Where is Gina Miller when she is so needed?