‘It could happen again at any moment’: Grenfell survivors join residents trapped in dangerous flats to demand urgent action

Survivors and bereaved family members from the Grenfell Tower fire have joined forces with residents trapped in dangerous flats as part of a major campaign to remove cladding and transform housing legislation.

Campaigners are claiming that 700,000 people are still living in dangerous conditions six months after the government announced a repair fund – with millions of others residing in unsellable homes.

Albion Works in Ancoats was deemed so unsafe that it didn’t even qualify for fire insurance.

The ‘End Our Cladding Scandal’ campaign has relaunched this week – setting out 10 Asks to resolve the crisis which has left about 200,000 high-rise homes wrapped in deadly materials.

Marathon / Geograph

Grenfell Tower was consumed by flames in summer 2017 and claimed the lives of 72 people.

The fire spread rapidly due to materials used in construction, and reviews have revealed that as around 20,000 high-rise flats still have the same unfit cladding today.

Grenfell United, a group of bereaved families and survivors, have warned a similar incident in another building could “happen at any moment.”

“It’s been three years since the fire that took the lives of our loved ones and neighbours,” said GU representatives.

“With this dangerous cladding still on buildings all it will take is a simple kitchen fire to cause another Grenfell.”

They added: “Only the Government has the capacity to sort this mess out. They haven’t done enough and every
month they stall they are willingly leaving thousands of people in danger. Rishi Sunak and Robert
Jenrick need to step up and make this right.”

Backed by former Grenfell residents, groups are demanding an urgent national effort to remove all
dangerous cladding from buildings by June 2022 and for funding to be provided up front to all blocks.

The 10 Asks are from the groups are as follows:

  1. The Government must lead an urgent national effort to remove all dangerous cladding from
    buildings by June 2022, actively prioritising the buildings most at risk
  2. The Building Safety Fund must cover all buildings, regardless of height, and a range of internal
    and external fire safety defects not just cladding
  3. The Government should provide the money up front, and then seek to recover it from any
    responsible parties or via a temporary levy on development
  4. Social housing providers must have full and equal access to the fund
  5. The Government must compel building owners or managers to be honest with residents about
    fire safety defects
  6. The Government should cover the cost of interim safety measures
  7. The Government should act as an insurer of last resort and underwrite insurance where
    premiums have soared
  8. A fairer, faster process is needed to replace EWS and funding is necessary to ensure all buildings
    requiring a form are surveyed within 12 months
  9. Mental health support must be offered to affected residents
  10. Protecting residents from historic and future costs must be a key commitment of new building
    safety legislation

The campaign states that the £1bn Government Fund will cover fewer than 600 of the 2,957 developments requiring restoration, leaving 2,357 with no recourse to remediation.

Without government funding, costs have fallen on leaseholders – and some residents are being charged
more than £100,000 to finance the repairs themselves.

Leaseholders are also required to fund waking watches (24-hour fire patrols) at costs of up to £800 per month until their blocks are deemed safe.

Michael Mansfield QC, representing a collective of lawyers working for Grenfell Tower families, said: “There are many more Grenfell fires waiting to happen. Thousands of citizens are at risk.

“After three years it is a disgrace that this risk has not been eradicated by the removal of all combustible
cladding. With the advent of more lockdown, the message is clear and urgent CLADOFF!”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester has expressed his support for the plan and local Cladiator group, along with Paul Dennett, Salford City Mayor and Chair of the Greater Manchester High Rise Task Force.

The Manchester Cladiators have said that residents are “suffering”, claiming the government has continued to pursue a “flawed approach” which is putting lives at risk.

Ritu Saha, a founding member of the UK Cladding Action Group, said the government “must act now or be responsible for another Grenfell.”

“Grenfell has exposed terrible failings of the building safety regulatory regime in this country,” said Saha.

“Thousands of buildings are now deemed unsafe, with horrific mental and financial consequences for innocent leaseholders.

“Any decent government must put the safety of residents first.”

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