A Manchester apartment block at the centre of the recent cladding scandal has now been considered so high risk that it doesn’t even qualify for fire insurance.
An inspection at the Albion Works building in New Islington last year revealed a wide range of fire issues – with leaseholders claiming they were unknowingly sold unsafe homes.
The previous insurance policy for blocks D and E was due for renewal two weeks ago (September 1), but according to management company RMG, previous insurers are unwilling to provide cover any longer.
Freeholder Artisan H2 has so far failed to secure new fire insurance – meaning leaseholders are at risk of losing everything if a blaze breaks out.
In the meantime, RMG is urging residents to be vigilant when cooking and to avoid leaving naked flames unattended.
Sarah, a first-time buyer at Albion Works, said: “It is terrifying that we not only have to live with the risk from combustible cladding but now we discover there is no insurance for the very thing our building has been found to be at a high risk from. I’d have more consumer rights if I’d bought a toaster.”
Artisan H2 has said it is making ongoing efforts to acquire cover, but after a fortnight of being left uninsured, residents are still waiting to hear more information.
Leaseholders in Albion Works have already been billed £400,000 for fire wardens, £70,000 for fire alarm improvements, and £10,000 in consultancy fees.
Anyone who fails to fork out for the necessary repairs is being threatened with referrals to debt collection agencies.
Sarah says: “I now feel utterly trapped. I’ve had sleepless nights worrying about the safety of my home and I feel physically sick every time I receive an email from my management company as I have no idea how many thousands they will be billing me for now.
“I am unable to make any plans for my future and I don’t know if the bills I am still to receive could bankrupt me.“
Another resident, Leanne is equally distraught.
“I was so proud as a single young female I managed to get myself on the housing ladder and was so grateful to have the help of the government’s Help to Buy scheme,” she said.
“Three years later I’m feeling as though the government don’t care that my property could be the next Grenfell, my life is on hold, my mental health is deteriorating, and my financial future is ruined.
“Why is the government allowing this to happen to us?”
Albion Works has been registered for the government’s £1.6bn building safety fund.
However, this pot of money is only expected to cover a third of the British buildings requiring urgent repairs.
Decisions on funding allocations will apparently be made on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.
If the buildings do not qualify for the fund, leaseholders will have to foot the bill.
As buildings await confirmation on financial support, Albion Works residents remain stuck with no fire insurance in apartments worth £0.
Responding to LBC, building owners Artisan H2 said they were “working day and night” to resolve the issue.
“We are committed to ensuring that the buildings are fully insured and we continue in daily discussions with a number of brokers in order to obtain full cover as quickly as possible,” said representatives.
“We appreciate the concern that this situation is causing, indeed as leaseholders of properties within the blocks we share the concern of our follow leaseholders. We are working day and night to obtain the best possible cover.
“We will keep all parties updated as soon as there is any movement on the insurance position.”
New cycle lanes and beer gardens closed as Northern Quarter building deemed ‘unsafe’
A section of the new cycleway through the Northern Quarter has been temporarily closed just weeks after opening, after a historic building was deemed to be ‘unsafe’.
Metal fences have now been erected on Thomas Street, blocking part of the cycle lanes and taking over valuable outdoor space for the bars and restaurants along the street.
The building in question stands on the corner of Thomas Street and John Street, once home to the Al Faisal takeaway.
It’s part of a block of 19th century properties in the area that back in 2018 were deemed to be in ”imminent danger of collapse’.
Councillors now say that the Northern Quarter building is unsafe, and will need to be propped up with scaffolding.
The owners of the building want to protect its historic facade but are unable to begin work immediately due to the high construction costs.
But until the scaffolding can be built, temporary fencing has been erected to protect members of the public.
It’s understood that the work will take up to 10 working days to complete.
Several images of the fencing have been circulation on social media, with the NQHQ account tweeting: “If you thought the cycleway through the Northern Quarter was sh*t…..well it just got sh*tter.”
Piccadilly Labour have said: “Building on the corner unfortunately deemed unsafe. Cllr @JonConnorLyons met with the owners who are putting up scaffolding and want to preserve the facade of the building – current construction costs are incredibly high for them to proceed with the development plans this year.”
Councillor Jon-Connor Lyons then added: “Winter weather has made the building vulnerable & cracks have formed which has resulted in the building having to be supported by scaffolding, whilst this happens, these fences have been put up to protect the public. Some reveal in this sort – that is a shame.”
Although the fencing is there in the public’s interest, several local hospitality businesses are concerned about the impact this will have on trade – especially as the fencing has appeared during the heatwave, when punters will be wanting to be outdoors to make the most of the sunny weather.
The Smithfield Social, which is part-owned by the Courteeners’ Liam Fray, has lost a chunk of its outdoor seating – though it does still have space for tables on Edge Street.
A spokesperson for the bar said: “The building works which commenced yesterday have impacted our outside trade significantly.
“We usually have eight tables out the front but after lengthy talks with councils and licensing we have come up with a solution which means we now have a severely reduced area with only four tables.
“The area seems to be an after thought as we are the only business affected by it. Fierce have moved their area but they do not lose any space.
“I have no doubt that we have lost significant patronage because of this, as who wants to sit outside with heavy machinery next to you and dust being blown in your face? Quite unfortunate timing with the great weather we are forecast to have over the coming days.”
The Manc has approached Manchester City Council for comment.
Featured image: The Manc Group
New stations appear across Manchester for city’s rentable ‘Burnham bike’ scheme
The roll-out of Greater Manchester’s Bee Bike cycle hire scheme has stepped up a gear, with new docking stations appearing across the city centre.
The scheme, nicknamed the ‘Burnham bikes’ as a nod to London’s ‘Boris bikes’, initially launched in Salford and along the Oxford Road corridor.
Several new yellow stations have appeared around Manchester now, with plenty more on the way.
The next phase of the roll-out of the Bee Bikes has seen stations installed around St Peter’s Square and Manchester Central.
By the time the scheme is complete, bike numbers will increase to 1,500, which will include 300 e-bikes.
It’s all part of the vision for a Bee Network – a joined-up, integrated public transport network across the region.
And it’s certainly off to a more successful start than Mobike, which famously withdrew from Manchester due to high levels of vandalism and theft.
The Bee Bikes are funded by TgGM and operated by Beryl, which runs similar schemes in London, Watford and Bournemouth.
Richard Nickson, programme director, Cycling and Walking at Transport for Greater Manchester, said: “The cycle hire scheme has really taken off in Greater Manchester since it was first introduced, and we are seeing significant numbers of riders and distances travelled by on the bikes- which is fantastic, particularly as we are still in the early days of the scheme’s roll out.
“The next phase of the roll-out has now started in Manchester city centre, with new stations installed at key locations including Manchester Central Library, Manchester Central Convention Centre and St Peter’s Square.