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WATCH: Flat owner ‘anxious’ over growing cost of tower cladding repairs

Phil Maricic owns two flats in  St Francis Tower and is unhappy about the state the building is in    Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Phil Maricic owns two flats in St Francis Tower and is unhappy about the state the building is in Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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A 66-year-old left with a £50,000 bill for unsafe cladding on an Ipswich tower block has revealed the ordeal has made him “very anxious” about the future.

Philip Maricic owns two flats in St Francis Tower and is among several leaseholders billed up to £25,000 per flat after the building's cladding system failed a fire test.

He estimates just over £1million has been spent on repairs so far - for the removal of around 55% of the cladding, a new fire alarm system, sprinklers and alterations to the internal structure.

MORE: St Francis Tower - What we've learned about safety of tower block a year on

However, Mr Maricic has since been told the block's windows need to be fixed, and scaffolding is expected to go up in the near future to replace the cladding - which he fears could put the price up even further.

"I am concerned that the cost, which is between £23,000 and £24,000 per flat at the moment, will continue to rise," he said.

"We were originally told it would be around £21,000 each.

"It does make me very anxious at times because we don't know what the future will hold.

"There is a lot of anxiety for people in the tower who have mortgages or are relying on that bit of income.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has pledged to fight like a lion for St Francis Tower leaseholders.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNIpswich MP Tom Hunt has pledged to fight like a lion for St Francis Tower leaseholders. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

He added: "You've also got to bear in mind we bought the flats in St Francis for about £60,000-£65,000 so the bill is quite a significant proportion of that.

"It's threatening what my wife and I can spend that money on in the future.

"There is an element of anxiety but there is also an element of hope that a legal case is being brought.

"The current freeholder is forward funding the repair costs and we hope they will manage to get a payout."

Cladding has been removed from the outside of St Francis Tower on Franciscan Way in Ipswich  
Picture:  Neil PerryCladding has been removed from the outside of St Francis Tower on Franciscan Way in Ipswich Picture: Neil Perry

Mr Maricic, who is now retired, is among four Ipswich leaseholders heading to Westminster next week to march on Parliament calling on them to 'End the Cladding Scandal'.

MORE: Tom Hunt promises to fight like a lion for St Francis Tower tenants

R G Securities Ltd is the current freeholder of St Francis Tower, while Block Management UK Ltd is the managing agent, having taken over in 2016. Legal action is under way against the previous owner.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt, who recently pledged to "fight like a lion" for constituents affected by the issue, said he is meeting with Block Management soon - he is joining Mr Maricic at Westminster on February 25.

Why is this happening?

In 2005, St Francis Tower had an extensive refurbishment where flats were subdivided to create 116 units and high pressure laminate (HPL) cladding - not the same as Grenfell - was put on.

Last year, it emerged the tower appeared to have no building regulation sign-off, and its cladding had the ability to produce "two thirds more heat than petrol".

Around 45% of this material remains after workers uncovered gaping holes in the building - meaning it is unsafe for it to be taken off entirely.

However, Suffolk fire service bosses say the tower is safer following internal and external work, which continues - adding that everyone involved has co-operated to "significantly reduce" any fire risk at the premises.

MORE: Flat owners to foot £2.4m tower block safety bill triggered by Grenfell

Mr Maricic added: "This sort of thing is happening up and down the country and in a sense we are in a good position because the building does now have a lot of features from a safety perspective.

"However, all of that comes at a cost which we are currently being asked to foot, at least for now."

The current freeholder and previous owner were approached for comment.


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