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Durkan slaps cladding fire patrol bill on residents

Residents living at one of Durkan’s London developments have been hit with a bill for 24/7 ’waking watch’ fire patrols after combustible cladding was discovered on the building.

CN has learned that leaseholders at Durkan’s Babbage Point housing development in Greenwich have had the annual cost of waking watch fire patrols, which amounts to £1,455 each, added on top of their annual service charge.

Residents have also told CN the company has yet to set out plans to remove the cladding, despite being made aware of its presence almost 12 months ago.

Last week the government increased the pressure on private building owners to accelerate the removal of dangerous cladding, while urging private owners not to pass these costs onto leaseholders.

Durkan subsidiary Glenageary Estates is the landlord of Babbage Point and the property is currently being managed by London Block Management.

Inspections in July 2017 following the Grenfell fire found combustible ACM cladding had been used on the development.

A subsequent review by the fire brigade in October 2017 instructed the building owner to change its evacuation policy and to install a 24/7 waking watch.

Since October, there have been two waking watch patrollers permanently stationed at the building to raise the alarm and evacuate residents in the event of a fire.

Residents were informed they would be charged the £1,455 waking watch fees in addition to their annual service charges in April this year, prompting a number of complaints by residents.

CN understands that some residents have refused to pay the waking watch part of the bill.

London Block Management on behalf of Glenageary responded to residents in May, saying non-payment would be a breach of lease.

The cladding covers the sixth and seventh floors of the development but the waking watch charges have been added to leaseholder’s service bills living on all floors, CN understands.

Residents have complained to CN that Durkan has yet to outline plans over whether it intends to remove the cladding.

A Durkan spokeswoman said the company had implemented all the fire brigade’s recommended measures, and that these had been signed off by an independent fire expert.

She said: “Cladding is a complex issue affecting the whole industry and like many of our peers we await further guidance in this important area.

“We understand that some of our residents have concerns, but the specific design of the building and the advice we have received, indicate that Babbage Point falls into a low-risk category.”

”We also know that some of our residents have concerns about charges for the waking watch that we put in place as a direct response to guidance from London Fire Brigade.

“London Block Management is writing separately to leaseholders to update them of the situation. We remain fully committed to working with leaseholders and tenants to address concerns and find a way forward.”

The Babbage Point development is split between leaseholders that fully own their properties and shared-ownership tenants.

The shared-ownership tenants’ intermediary landlord is housing association Peabody Estates, which has agreed to pay the waking watch costs for its tenants.

In June CN revealed Mace was paying £100,000 a month for a permanent waking watch on its £225m Greenwich Square project after ACM cladding was found.

Mace said it was looking at the best solution for remedial work and confirmed it would continue to pay the waking watch bill for the “foreseeable future”.

Last week housing minister James Brokenshire said the government would be bringing in measures to accelerate the pace at which private building owners remove unsafe cladding.

In total, the government’s building safety programme has found 297 private high-rise blocks to have ACM combustible cladding.

However, only 21 have begun to remove cladding, while just four have had their cladding completely removed.

More than three-quarters of private building owners have yet to inform the Ministry of Housing, Local Government and Communities of plans to remove dangerous cladding.

The new measures from Mr Brokenshire include plans to force every private building owner to draw up a cladding action plan, as well as looking at ways to ensure the costs of replacing cladding will not be pushed onto residents.

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