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'We are trapped in buildings that aren't safe...' hundreds stage cladding protests across city as residents say 'no progress' made nearly four years on from Grenfell

Manchester Evening News logo Manchester Evening News 05/06/2021 Sophie Halle-Richards

Hundreds of residents living in 'unsafe' apartment blocks staged a series of cladding protests across Greater Manchester today.

Demonstrations took place in Manchester city centre, Prestwich and various other locations across the UK, including London.

Four years on from the Grenfell tragedy, residents say they have seen 'no progress' on their demands to have dangerous cladding removed from their buildings.

Thousands of leaseholders are now faced with staggering bills of £20,000, to cover the costs of repair work to their properties.

In June 2017, 72 people were killed after a fire broke out at the 24-storey block of flats in North Kensington, West London.

The fire was started by a malfunctioning fridge-freezer on the fourth floor.

The first phase of an inquiry said cladding installed during refurbishment helped the fire spread because it was made from combustible material.

a group of people walking on a sidewalk: Around 150 demonstrators gathered in St Peter's Square on Saturday afternoon © Manchester Cladiators Around 150 demonstrators gathered in St Peter's Square on Saturday afternoon

Since the tragedy, residents across the country have demanded developers, and the government, to take account for any remaining tower blocks built with similar-style cladding.

About half a million people are living in a building with some form of unsafe cladding, the Association of Residential Managing Agents says.

In February, the government set aside £3.5bn to replace unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings 18m (six storeys) or higher in England.

But many residents and leaseholders say this doesn't go far enough to absorb the expensive costs of making their buildings safe.

An End Our Cladding Scandal campaign flyer promoting the protests said: "The government has turned their back on us and the developers will not take responsibility.

"We’re facing financial ruin and bankruptcy, mental health issues and homelessness because our homes are not safe from fire.

"We demand that developers fix our unsafe homes, which they built – and profited from."

Wendy Lim holding a sign: Leaseholders are facing bills of £20,000 to remove the dangerous cladding © Manchester Cladiators Leaseholders are facing bills of £20,000 to remove the dangerous cladding

Stephen Squires lives in 22-floor apartment block Britton House in the Green Quarter of Manchester City Centre.

He organised today's protest at St Peter's Square in Manchester City Centre, which was attended by around 150 people.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News , he said: "We are at the stage where it’s been four years since Grenfell and there has still been no progress.

"It is the same situation across Manchester and the country.

"These developers are still carrying on making money but have forgotten about the people they have sold these apartments to."

Stephen and other leaseholders with properties in Britton House say they are facing a bill of £20,000 to have the Grenfell-style cladding on the building removed.

"We just need to see some progress," Stephen added.

a group of people sitting in a parking lot: Demonstrators outside Bellway developers office in Prestwich © Manchester Cladiators Demonstrators outside Bellway developers office in Prestwich

"It has consumed years of our life thinking about it. We are trapped in buildings that are not safe.

"We just want the Government and the developers to pay attention and to make them safe.

"It is a huge amount of money and it’s not affordable.

"That’s how much you would pay for a deposit on a property not how much you should have to pay to keep it safe."

Giles Grover lives in City Gate in Castlefield, which has the same ACM cladding as the Grenfell Tower.

He is a member of the Manchester Claddiators - a voluntary group representing the residents of buildings across Greater Manchester with dangerous cladding systems and serious internal fire safety issues.

Giles attended a protest outside the offices of City Gate developers Bellway in Prestwich this afternoon.

a close up of a sign: One placards read 'fire does not discriminate' © Manchester Cladiators One placards read 'fire does not discriminate'

"The protests today were about what we can do to take action as the government is not really holding these developers to account", he said.

"We just want to get this into the public consciousness."

Giles says he and other leaseholders are still 'fighting' the government for more money to pay for the dangerous cladding to be replaced.

"The Government is funding cladding removal for buildings over 18m but there are lots of buildings that aren't getting the help, and other costs to take into account.

"Most people are looking at about £20,000 to get the cladding removed despite government funding.

"No matter how much the cost we shouldn’t have to pay for any of it. We are the only blameless party in this."

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: "We know many people are worried – which is why our priority is making sure residents are safe and feel safe in their homes by removing dangerous cladding from the highest risk buildings as quickly as possible backed by over £5 billion.

"We have been clear throughout that owners and industry should make buildings safe without passing on costs to leaseholders – and we will ensure they pay for the mistakes of the past with a new levy and tax to contribute to the costs of remediation."


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