Arsenal football club should take responsibility for 'fire trap' flats
Arsenal football club should take responsibility for ‘fire trap’ flats that have unsafe cladding, wooden balconies and missing fire breaks, Jeremy Corbyn says
- Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, said Arsenal FC should pay the bill
- Leaseholders in flats at Queensland Park and Highbury Square affected
- Told they could have to pay up to £50,000 per flat to make the buildings safe
- Mr Corbyn said ‘very wealthy companies’ should bear ‘responsibility’ for costs
Arsenal football club should foot the bill for ‘fire trap’ flats that have unsafe cladding, wooden balconies and missing fire breaks, according to Jeremy Corbyn.
The MP and former leader of the Labour Party said the club should bear ‘responsibility’ after leaseholders at Queensland Road and Highbury Square in London were told their flats needed remediation work.
Companies owned by Arsenal FC’s parent firm are the named freeholders of both sites – with Highbury Square located on the club’s former ground and Queensland Road next to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.
Total costs to make the sites safe could surpass £10million, according to The Athletic, with residents on Queensland Road told they could be forced to pay £50,000 per flat. At Highbury, residents could be liable to pay £36,000 each.
Mr Corbyn, MP for Islington North, told the website: ‘Arsenal were granted planning permission to develop the whole site including for housing, and the responsibility for subsequent problems is theirs.
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured), MP for Islington North, said Arsenal FC was granted planning permission to develop the land for housing and should therefore shoulder ‘responsibility’ for work needed to make the buildings safe
Companies owned by Arsenal FC’s parent firm are the named freeholders of both sites – with Highbury Square located on the club’s former ground and Queensland Road (pictured) next to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium
‘No resident should be put under this kind of stress. The responsibility does lie with the freehold owner who constructed it.’
He said the developers were ‘very wealthy organisations’ and it was ‘completely unfair’ to put responsibility for making the flats safe on the leaseholders.
Two blocks of the Queensland Road flats are managed by the housing association charity, Newlon, and Highbury Square Management Company is the leaseholder for the flats in Arsenal’s former home.
A Newlon spokesperson said: ‘We are responsible for commissioning remedial fire safety works at 1 and 3 Queensland Road.
‘We have bid for funding under the government’s Building Safety Fund. If we are successful this should ensure that no costs for remedial works are passed back to residents.’
The ‘cladding scandal’ has affected millions of leaseholders across the UK since the Grenfell disaster in June 2017 exposed the issue of flammable cladding.
Some 72 people died when the fire broke out at the 23-storey tower block in west London.
A spokesman for Arsenal said: ‘Arsenal takes all health and safety matters extremely seriously and applies the highest standards to its operations.
The problem, known as the Cladding Scandal, has affected millions of leaseholders across the UK since the Grenfell disaster in June 2017 exposed the issue of flammable cladding. Pictured, Highbury Square flats
Mr Corbyn said Arsenal FC should bear ‘responsibility’ after leaseholders at Queensland Road and Highbury Square (pictured) in London were told their flats needed remediation work
‘Arsenal works with Islington Borough Council and its health and safety advisors to maintain all appropriate accreditations and safety certificates.
‘Newlon Housing Trust and Highbury Square Management Company Limited are responsible for the Queensland Road and Highbury Square developments respectively.’
It comes as hundreds of thousands of leaseholders of flats entitled to help from the Government’s cladding fund face missing out because of a ‘fundamental flaw’ in the scheme.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick recently announced an extra £3.5billion to replace unsafe cladding on high-rise buildings.
He is already facing a backlash over plans to exclude more than two million leaseholders living in low and medium-rise blocks – the vast majority of those affected.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured) recently announced an extra £3.5billion to replace unsafe cladding on high-rise buildings
But the Daily Mail revealed even those in eligible blocks could be denied cladding funds unless they stump up millions of pounds to fix other safety defects. Repairs would be put on hold if families cannot find the extra cash.
Industry leaders warned the contract terms could ‘torpedo’ the Government’s programme, while leaseholders claimed they were being ‘held to ransom’ by ministers.
The Mail is calling for all unsafe homes to be fixed by June 2022 and for leaseholders to be spared all of the crippling financial burden.
Just 216 out of a possible 11,760 dangerous buildings have been fixed since the Grenfell tower inferno killed 72 in June 2017.
Just 216 out of a possible 11,760 dangerous buildings have been fixed since the Grenfell tower (pictured) inferno killed 72 in June 2017
The Government has said its overall pot of £5billion will ensure that leaseholders in high-rise buildings will not have to pay to replace unsafe cladding similar to that on Grenfell, in west London.
My £50k repair bill
A woman is facing an anxious wait to find out if her block of flats will receive vital funds to replace unsafe cladding.
Advertising worker Stephanie Lamb, 32, lives in an eight-storey block that has flammable cladding and is eligible for the Government’s £5billion fund.
However, it also has other safety defects that are not covered, such as combustible insulation and missing fire-breaks.
Advertising worker Stephanie Lamb, 32, lives in an eight-storey block that has flammable cladding
The total repair bill could be around £50,000 per flat. Miss Lamb, of Croydon, south London, said: ‘Leaseholders have been left in the dark and we can’t even prepare for how much this might cost us. I don’t know how they expect us to pay for the kinds of bills that are being talked about.’
She said her housing association, Clarion, was initially reluctant to apply for funding as it knew it would not cover non-cladding defects. Clarion said it was working to ensure repairs were ‘completed as quickly as possible’.
But inspections carried out in the wake of the disaster have identified hundreds of buildings with safety defects apart from cladding, such as missing fire-breaks and timber balconies.
These faults are excluded from the Government fund – and the housing ministry has inserted a contract clause that says leaseholders cannot claim aid for cladding repairs without proving they have ‘sufficient funding … to complete all the works’.
The clause in the contract makes clear these works cover non-cladding related safety defects.
The average cost per flat of replacing unsafe cladding is estimated to be £22,500 and leaseholders face another £25,600 bill for other defects, according to the Association of Residential Managing Agents (Arma).
Ministers have said building owners – not leaseholders – should pay these bills.
However, critics say this is meaningless because leaseholders are legally liable.
Clive Betts, Labour chairman of the Commons housing committee, said the clause was ‘outrageous’.
He added: ‘It means every leaseholder in the block is going to have to prove that they can pay their share of the additional work before any repairs will be done.
‘It’s totally unfair, it’s fundamentally wrong and it needs changing straight away.’
Campaign group End Our Cladding Scandal said: ‘This clause is clearly a fundamental flaw and we are concerned that the Government is effectively trying to hold us to ransom by forcing us to take whatever funding is available and make us pay the rest, meaning we will still receive bills running into tens of thousands, and in some cases hundreds of thousands, of pounds.
‘This provides further evidence of the Government’s inadequate, piecemeal and unfair approach.’
Nigel Glen, of Arma, said the clause ‘could torpedo the remediation programme’.
A Government spokesman defended the clause, saying it ‘relates only to other non-cladding works which applicants choose to carry out as part of the same project as cladding work covered by Government funding’.
He said it meant repairs were not delayed if applicants ran out of cash to complete the non-cladding works halfway through.
Warning on cladding TEN YEARS before Grenfell fire: Firm that made panels was told of the risk of a deadly inferno a decade before the tragedy
The firm which made the Grenfell Tower cladding was warned that a fire in a building fitted with the product would kill ‘60 to 70’ people – a decade before the disaster.
Gerard Sonntag, a former marketing manager at Arconic, sent an internal memo in 2007 with the chilling prediction made by a building expert at a conference.
Mr Sonntag suggested Arconic stop selling the flammable version of its cladding to avoid any ‘catastrophic’ consequences.
But it continued to sell the panels to the UK construction market and they were fitted to Grenfell over 2015 and 2016.
The cladding helped cause the rapid spread of the fire at the tower in west London in June 2017, which claimed 72 lives.
The firm which made the Grenfell Tower cladding was warned that a fire in a building fitted with the product would kill ‘60 to 70’ people – a decade before the disaster. Pictured: The Grenfell Tower as seen from Silchester Road on February 16, 2021
The public inquiry into the disaster was yesterday shown internal company documents obtained by investigators.
Richard Millett QC, counsel to the inquiry, said Mr Sonntag had been ‘very impressed’ by a presentation on fire safety by cladding expert Fred-Roderich Pohl at a conference in Norway.
Mr Pohl highlighted the risks of using aluminium composite cladding (ACM) with a polyethylene core, which he said had the same ‘fuel power’ as a lorry full of oil.
He told the conference: ‘What will happen if only one building made out of polyethylene core is on fire and kills 60 to 70 persons? What is the responsibility of the ACM supplier?’
Last month the inquiry heard Arconic was repeatedly warned about the fire risks of the cladding. The inquiry continues.
It came as insurance companies were accused of ‘profiteering’ from the crisis by hiking premiums by up to 3,000 per cent for those living in unsafe homes.
The cladding helped cause the rapid spread of the fire at the tower in west London in June 2017 (pictured), which claimed 72 lives
In a Westminster debate yesterday, Tory MP Bob Neill said insurers had made ‘unreasonable’ profits, while Labour MP Margaret Hodge accused firms of ‘profiteering’.
The Association of British Insurers rejected the claims, saying: ‘Insurers are committed to working with the Government and property owners to see reforms that will [reduce] premiums.’
The Daily Mail is campaigning to end the cladding scandal. Around 1.3 million flats are unsellable unless they pass safety tests after guidance issued post-Grenfell.
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