OVER 400 angry leaseholders from the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign, the National Leasehold Campaign rallied in Parliament Square last Thursday demanding an end to the cladding scandal.
Buses had travelled from Bristol, Yorkshire, Liverpool, Manchester, Wales and Leeds.
Many of the campaigners are facing bills of thousands of pounds to make their homes safe. They want the government to legislate in the upcoming Building Safety Bill to get property developers to cover the costs.
A 72-second silence for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire was held at the beginning of the rally.
Opening the rally Katie Kendrick from ‘Leaseholders Together’ opened the rally, saying: ‘We have been fighting the leasehold system since 2017 against all the charges over cladding, service and management. It is a feudal system.
‘We have to unite together and tell the government enough is enough.’
Will Martin, of the End Our Cladding ‘The time for warm words but limited action is over. We need protection from paying to fix safety defects we didn’t cause.’
Justin Madders the Labour MP for Ellesmere Port, said: ‘The cladding crisis was an industrial sized scam,’ adding: ‘This is one of the biggest, systematic rip-offs this country has ever seen.’
A number of other MPs addressed the rally. Ian Duncan Smith was greeted with a group yelling ‘hypocrite’.
The loudest reception was given to Karim Mussilhy from Grenfell United representing the Grenfell families said: ‘No doubt you know how stubborn and resilient we are. We are from 72 families whose members have been taken away from us.
‘We are here four years later and are still saying the same thing.
‘We are allowed to angry.
‘We knew there was something very sinister going on. Something was not right.
‘It is very painful for us to hear how incompetent and greedy these companies are.
‘It is why you have been left to suffer in your own homes, and you have to pay the bill.
‘It is because there is this cosy relationship between these guys and these corporations. The powers that be listen to and take advice from these corporations.
‘They have been filling their pockets for ages. The cosy relationships with these people is responsible for killing our relatives.
‘The system is not broken. It was built this way. It was built this way, with their lawyers and their banks.
‘They want us to suffer with mental illnesses and stress. This fight is not going to end tomorrow. We’re not going to roll over and die. That is not going to happen.
‘We want justice for our loved ones. They were left to die. Grenfell was no accident.
‘We need gatherings like this. The only way change is going to come is by demanding it together.’
Also addressing the rally the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: ‘I was at Grenfell Tower in June 2017 with Karim, when women and children perished because their homes weren’t safe.
‘How can anyone not feel a sense of urgency to make all our homes safe.
‘Grenfell Tower is not a one-off. The London Fire Brigade, four weeks ago said there were 1,000 buildings in London which are still unsafe.
‘The dreams of the leaseholders in having a home, have turned into stress and danger. I show my solidarity in lobbying the government to do much more.
‘The government should pay for all these homes to be made safe now. They can have the arguments with landowners later.
‘Leaseholders are contemplating suicide, they can’t pay service charges and ground rent. They are forced to pay for waking watches. I will ask Michael Gove to meet with us.
‘It isn’t just about Grenfell, cladding, planning, ground rent and service charges – the leasehold system is broken. (cheers) That is the core of this. We are not going away.’
Leaseholder Kelly Wickers from Chelmsford told News Line: ‘I live in a flat in the Marconi development built by Bellway and it is in a block under 18 metres high and has been given a ESW B2 rating, the worst you can get.
‘EWS is the External Wall Survey rating with B2 meaning there are combustible materials present where an adequate standard of fire safety is not achieved.
‘The building insurers refuse to pay for remediation to make our homes safe, saleable and remortgagable.
‘I have an £8,000 bill for the removal of the flammable cladding. This does not include the fire breaks or balconies which need to be replaced.
‘There are 400 flats in this development and this is where the headquarters of Bellway is situated.
‘We want Bellway as the builder to cover these costs so that no leaseholder has to pay for something we did not cause and we don’t want any government loans.’
Earlier in the year, campaigners were told early details of the government’s cladding loan scheme. It will offer long-term loans against flats in buildings between 11 and 18 metres tall, capped at £50 a month, to pay to remove dangerous cladding.
A group of extremely angry leaseholders from the New Providence Wharf development in Poplar condemned builders Landor Residential, a subsidiary of Ballymore for not removing ACM cladding.
A fire in one of the tower blocks in May spread across multiple floors and hospitalised two residents.
A leaseholder who didn’t want to give his name because of fear of being victimised said: ‘The service charge has been hiked up to £10,000 for only £1,000 of service.
‘There is a lack of maintenance, a denial of the cladding issue, no fire alarms and fire doors don’t close.
‘The nearby Hotel Radison is housing Covid residents. Flats are being rented out as AirB&B for people holding parties. It’s just ridiculous.’
From Peckham, Michelle Delgado, dressed in a prisoners outfit said: ‘We are innocent. We are trapped.
‘L&Q (London & Quadrant Housing Trust) got a grant to remove cladding from the front of our building but the rear still needs doing.
‘There is polymer rendering with polystyrene filler and wooden balconies and we have issues with fire breaks.
‘Even though we have 35 per cent shared ownership we have to pay 100 per cent of the charge.
‘Our flats are on Rye Lane and it’s a busy shopping centre.
‘I think the government are just trying to hold back the floodwaters and we are not going to give up.’
An End Our Cladding statement said: ‘As many as three million leaseholders now live in flats that are unsaleable and unmortgageable – with just one in ten buildings thought to pass EWS1 checks – as much as Robert Jenrick, Dame Judith Hackitt and other experts like to tell us otherwise.’
The Building Safety Bill is currently at committee stage, with the next phase of the line-by-line scrutiny scheduled for 21st and 23rd September.