‘Totally unacceptable’ - Cladding fears for Waterfront blocks near Aurora
- Credit: TERRY COLTHORPE/ARCHANT
Five blocks of flats on Ipswich’s Waterfront have cladding issues identified after the Grenfell disaster, it can be revealed - costing owners in one building hundreds of pounds extra per flat.
Fire safety problems have been identified at apartments in the Orwell Quay development - at 1, 3, 5 and 7 Anchor Street as well as 51 Patteson Road - after an independent inspection carried out earlier this year.
Two of the blocks - 7 Anchor Street and 51 Patteson Road - are above 18m and therefore qualify for government funding for cladding repairs.
Both have an ‘insulated render system’, which is a decorative form of cladding using thermal insulation and finished with a render (usually paint).
Other fire safety concerns identified in the taller blocks include timber decking on balconies, timber cladding and issues with cavity barriers, which act to block the spread of fire through walls.
However, the middle three blocks - 1, 3 and 5 Anchor Street - are under 18m and now the developments’ managing agents EWS have informed leaseholders and apartment owners that insurance premiums have rocketed.
The three middle buildings, sandwiched between the two taller blocks, have similar problems with timber cladding, timber decking and fire barriers.
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In a letter seen by this newspaper, owners of flats in 3 Anchor Street have been quoted just over £26,200 for the coming year to account for an increase in the building’s insurance premium.
It is understood this is to be divided equally between 35 flats in the building, which works out at approximately £748 per apartment.
Terry Colthorpe has a one-bedroom, buy-to-let apartment in the block.
He said: “It’s totally unacceptable. Someone needs to be held accountable for this substandard, inappropriate and apparently high-risk cladding.
“The charges are excessive and it’s still quite vague as to who will be responsible for paying for this work.
"It's obviously quite substantial, but I'm not going to pass that on to the person that is renting my accommodation.
"I'm just going to have to incur that cost, unfortunately."
EWS bosses confirmed the increase in a letter to leaseholders.
They wrote: “It is with regret that Orwell Quay has received a significant increase in the renewal premium, and while this is clearly unwelcome, our broker is adamant that given the state of the insurance market and the rates they are seeing for other buildings with cladding issues, that they have achieved the best possible deal available to us.”
A spokesman for the firm told this newspaper the safety of leaseholders and residents is “paramount”.
“EWS have been working closely with owners Orwell Quay Ipswich Management Company Ltd (OQMC) following investigations into the cladding at the development which identified deficiencies,” they added.
“The cladding issues identified have unfortunately resulted in the buildings’ insurance premium increasing across the development.
“EWS is disappointed that the additional charges have had to be passed to the leaseholders and are not covered by the government scheme, however we understand that this higher premium is expected to only stay in place until the necessary remedial works have been completed.”
Bosses added in their letter to owners that they have pushed Persimmon Homes, the developer, to confirm its commitment to Orwell Quay and that the cladding works will be carried out on all buildings, irrespective of height.
The managing agents also claim to have received a statement from Persimmon confirming they will foot the bill, irrespective of independent warranties or building control inspections/sign-offs.
A spokesman for Persimmon Homes added: “We don’t believe that leaseholders should have to pay for banned cladding removal or any safety issues from the original development that now need addressing.
"Therefore, we are working closely with EWS and providing practical and financial support to ensure the ongoing safety of residents at Orwell Quay.”
Work is expected to start on the buildings in early August 2021, according to EWS chiefs and last for around six months.
Are residents safe?
EWS’ letter adds that it wants all works to be carried out at the same time, to help resolve issues with people selling flats and to give “peace of mind” about the safety of the building.
Despite the deficiencies, the managing agents told leaseholders that a fire safety audit carried out by Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service is currently ongoing, with the service “confirming their confidence in the compartmentation of the building so far”.
The block’s ‘stay put’ policy, where residents are recommended to stay in their apartments in the event of a fire, can remain in place as detection devices inside the flats would provide “adequate warning of fire” to allow the fire service to attend.
“That, in conjunction with other fire precautions, would not present an extreme risk to residents in the event of a fire,” EWS bosses added, but they did recommend residents should not use barbecues or smoke on balconies.
This is not the first Waterfront development to be impacted by insufficient cladding and fire safety problems.
Cardinal Lofts was inspected last year and leaseholders asked to foot the bill, while The Mill also has flaws in its cladding.
Closer to town, St Francis Tower residents last week told how they felt "suffocated" by new plastic shrinkwrap in place while cladding is repaired.