Barking Riverside homeowners urge developer to cover cost of decking replacements

Bellway protesters outside the company's office in fielders quarter

Leaseholders urge developer Bellway to cover the cost of making their homes safe from fire. - Credit: Jon King

A group of leaseholders is urging a developer to meet the cost of replacing wooden decking so they can feel safe in their homes.

The homeowners bought in the Caspian Quarter neighbourhood of Barking Riverside where fire destroyed 20 apartments at nearby Samuel Garside House in June 2019.

The blaze engulfed six floors of the block of flats. Picture: @mobee_me /PA Wire

The Samuel Garside House blaze engulfed six floors of the block of flats. - Credit: @mobee_me /PA Wire

But they fear having to pay thousands for remedial work to remove timber decking identified as "a likely route" for the spread of fire in a report published in February by consultants Tri Fire.

The leaseholders say they also can't re-mortgage or sell their properties - which were built by Bellway in 2016 - after their blocks failed EWS1 external wall fire safety reviews.

About 60 people protested outside the developer's office, in Fielders Quarter, unfurling banners which read: "Bellway must pay" on Saturday, May 1.

Leaseholder, Chloe Waite, said: "It is enormously frustrating. I just feel so powerless.

"It's stressful. I don't feel safe. A financial sword of Damocles is hanging over me."

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Yasmin Shaikh said: "We don't want those costs passed on to us.

"We are in a Covid situation. We have not made savings. We are under constant stress. We bought our homes to live in peacefully."

A Bellway spokesperson said the company is not registered as responsible for fire and building safety at the Caspian Quarter.

But he added representatives from Bellway have met with residents, Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge as well as staff from the managing agent, Encore, and the freeholder, Adriatic. 

"Bellway has agreed to work with Encore and Adriatic to explore the results of the EWS1," he said.

Dame Margaret said: "I have pushed Bellway to do right by these leaseholders. They have a moral responsibility to do the right thing. 

"I hope Bellway will now agree to cover the costs of making these homes completely safe at no cost to leaseholders."

Chloe described feeling let down by the government after an amendment to its Fire Safety Bill, aimed at protecting leaseholders from the cost of making their homes safe, was rejected in a Commons vote.

"That was a really disheartening moment. We felt the government completely turned its back on us," she said.

A spokesperson for the ministry of housing, communities and local government said: "We have been clear building owners and industry should make buildings safe without passing on costs to leaseholders.

"We understand many people are worried - that’s why we’re protecting those in buildings between 11m-18m from excessive costs by ensuring no leaseholder will ever pay more than £50 a month to remove unsafe cladding, as part of our new financing scheme.

"This is on top of more than £5billion to fully fund the replacement of unsafe cladding in the highest risk buildings."

However, Chloe said residents are unhappy they should have to pay on account of the poor regulations which caused the problem.

Amima Hossain bought a flat in 2017 not long after the Grenfell Tower fire.

She said: "We were told it was completely safe. We were given that confidence.

"We don't have children, but it's scary to think about having any in a home like this. It's one reason why we feel this might not be the time to start a family."

Bellway's spokesperson said following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the company instigated a full review of its high-rise portfolio and buildings with ACM cladding.

He added its developments, including Caspian Quarter, achieved all the required regulatory approvals at the time of construction and were sold with a warranty from insurer NHBC.

"In most cases, we are no longer the current freehold owner or responsible person under existing legislation.

"However, as a responsible developer, Bellway continues to invest considerable resources to address fire safety issues which have arisen as a result of the Grenfell tragedy: many of which are complex and go beyond the widely reported use of ACM cladding," he said.

Bellway's spokesperson added the "main route" to remediation is through the NHBC Buildmark warranty and a claim against the policy has been made.

"Bellway is working with the NHBC and other parties in assisting with this claim," he added.