PRESS RELEASE: Zöe Franklin and Cllr Cait Taylor investigate building safety concerns as fire evacuation plan is updated after Surrey Fire Brigade finds dangerous issues around the cladding.

February 7, 2022 10:14 AM

It has been found that the apartments above Waitrose in Guildford Town Centre have major problems with the construction of the external walls resulting in significant fire risk. This is causing major concerns in the wake of the Grenfell disaster and leaves the residents feeling uncertain about what the future holds for them in terms of both safety and finances.

Following details of the industry-wide cladding scandal, Cllr Cait Taylor, Guildford Borough councillor for Friary and St Nicolas, decided to look into the buildings in and around Guildford. Around the same time, she was approached by residents of the Bellerby Apartments who are facing potentially enormous bills to cover essential remedial works to resolve serious fire safety issues at the development.

Cllr Taylor raised the issue with Guildford and Cranleigh's Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate Zöe Franklin, who was aware that the Second Reading of the Building Safety Bill was due to come to the House of Lords imminently, and together they were able to secure a question in the debate as part of a speech by Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Lynne Featherstone. In her speech on Wednesday 1st February, Baroness Featherstone highlighted the issues faced by the Guildford apartment owners as part of her wider calls for leaseholders and shared owners to have the right to information about building safety issues, and for the financial burden of putting right the mistakes made in the construction of the external walls to be removed from the shoulders of the residents.

Speaking about the issues faced by the residents Cllr Cait Taylor said:

"After reaching out to residents of the Bellerby apartments they asked for help to resolve issues they are facing relating to fire safety. It is clear that their issues are not unique - people are facing similar problems up and down the country with developers and building owners unwilling to foot the bill of fixing the problems. Currently, they have been advised that the likely cost of remedial works is £5 million which could result in a bill of £100k plus for each leaseholder and shared owner. Why should these residents be forced to pay for failures beyond their control?

I spoke to Zöe about the issue, as she had approached me before asking if we were aware of any buildings in Guildford with similar issues to Grenfell, and when I did she suggested reaching out to other Lib Dems across the country to seek advice and share information. One of the people she spoke to was Baroness Featherstone who was due to speak in the Building Safety Bill debate and offered to raise the plight of our residents as part of her speech."

Zöe Franklin commented:

"I am grateful that Baroness Featherstone was able to raise the issue faced by our residents as part of the Building Safety Bill debate in the Lords. I hope that it will help them to get the issues they face resolved. Sadly their situation is not unique and illustrates a problem faced by leaseholders and shared owners across the country. It's crucial that the Government recognises it and provides financial support for all those who find that their homes have major safety failings - not just if their building is over 11 metres.

Residents rightly expect to feel safe in their own homes yet, as a result of construction failures, they feel anything but. To make matters worse, it has been almost impossible until recently for them to get the information they need to move forward and now they have been told they face a potentially crippling bill to fix the problems. This economic and emotional stress and anxiety is completely unacceptable. Cllr Taylor and I will continue to provide all the support that we can on this issue and as a party, the Liberal Democrats will continue to push the Government and contractors to do the right thing and ensure people can live in safe homes here in Guildford Borough and beyond."

ENDS

Notes to editors:

The full text of Baroness Lynne Featherstone's speech can be found here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2022-02-02/debates/0A62E1DB-CA20-47EC-9E51-0D07B71A1817/BuildingSafetyBill#contribution-FAEA0F09-75A9-4C13-A953-80C2D2FE93B5