Hundreds of Mancunians stuck in unsafe Grenfell-style buildings

Hundreds of people across Greater Manchester are stuck in unsafe buildings covered in the same style of cladding used on Grenfell Tower.

More than 20% of high-rise buildings across Greater Manchester are affected and little progress has been made to remove the materials from privately-owned buildings.

Debates in Westminster continue over who should pay for cladding remediation costs, as Labour is calling for a National Cladding Taskforce to get a handle on the crisis.  

The Manchester Cladiators, a group formed in 2019, have been campaigning tirelessly for the government to take urgent action and ensure residents don’t have to pay for repairs themselves.

Giles Grover, a member of the Manchester Cladiators, said: “At the end of the day, it’s just about fairness.

“Leaseholders shouldn’t have to pay and everything needs to come centrally.

“We need cross party support and it’s clear we need cross industry support, whether it’s government, insurers, fire engineers, mortgage providers, every man and his dog and importantly leaseholder representation.”

Mr Grover lives in a building covered in the same ACM panels used on Grenfell Tower and says it’s ‘scary’ living there.

He said: “The ACM goes from the second floor up to the twelfth floor, that’s what causes the fire to accelerate and it’s literally on my balcony.

“We do have some alarms installed now which is a help, but because I live on the roundabout when cars are beeping, every night really, you’ll hear something and think ‘oh is that the alarm going off?’

“You go to bed thinking about it, you wake up thinking about it, sometimes you dream about it.”

Residents have seen their service charge and insurance rise by thousands of pounds and have been unable to sell or remortgage their homes.  

Mr Grover was told in 2019 it would cost £11 million, roughly £30,000 – £40,000 per leaseholder, to remove the cladding from the three buildings where he lives.

A £1billion Building Safety Fund was announced by the government in May last year but this is only for buildings 18 metres and over and does not cover the extent of buildings impacted.  

The Manchester Cladiators want the government to be held to account for the delays in tackling the crisis and for more funding to be given to all buildings concerned, including those under 18 metres.

Mr Grover said: “No one can really get a handle on the figures, the buildings because it’s such a widespread problem.

“Obviously to the average man 1.6 billion sounds like a load of money, but it’s under 10%, it’s a fraction of the actual costs that will be required.

“Ultimately the estimates you’re looking at are 10, 15, 20 billion potentially.”

The situation has taken a massive toll on the mental health of affected residents, as Mr Grover told MM he was aware of a few people taking their own lives.

He said: “The coping mechanisms are different for everyone and there’s a lot of people reporting that they’re drinking a lot more.

“The pandemic’s one thing and it’s just multiplied massively because you’re trapped at home, you don’t know how much your insurance is going up, you know that you’re potentially going to have bills to pay, you don’t know how you’re going to pay them and all the government says is ‘we’ll make it affordable by spreading it out over 30, maybe 40 years.’”

A UK Cladding Action Group survey in 2020 found 23% of affected leaseholders felt suicidal or wanted to self-harm, 90% had seen their mental health deteriorate and 94% felt constant anxiety or worry.

Last week Manchester city council voted unanimously in support of the Manchester Cladiators and the #EndOurCladdingScandal campaign.

Councillor Suzanne Richards, Manchester City Council’s executive member for housing and regeneration, said: “We have worked closely with the Cladiator group throughout this crisis and we have consistently agreed that leaseholders who have bought properties in good faith should not be held financially accountable for remediation works to make safe the buildings they live in. 

“It’s unacceptable that nearing four years on from the Grenfell tragedy that we are still fighting for building owners and developers to stand up to their responsibility and make sure these homes are safe for Manchester people. The Government needs to act without delay.”

“We will continue to work with affect residents until this Government lives up to its promises to them, until it holds those responsible to account and every building in the city is safely remediated.” 

Photo by C Dustin on Unsplash

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