‘Living hell’ of residents trapped in dark and freezing flats due to cladding crisis

4 February 2022, 08:59

'Living Hell' : Cladding residents trapped 'indefinitely' in dark and freezing flats

Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

Thousands of people are living in dark homes shrouded in plastic, as work begins to fix the cladding on the outside of their buildings.

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The result for residents is dark, cold flats, a constant racket from builders, and another nightmare chapter in the building safety crisis, exposed by Grenfell tragedy.

"This is like phase two of the cladding crisis" Natalie Carter explains, as we sit in her dark living room and listen to the din of clanging metal and power-saws outside her balcony.

The work was meant to be over by May but has been delayed 'indefinitely' and she is worried the situation could remain the same for the rest of the year.

Large red signs stuck to the inside of her windows shout "Danger! Construction Site" as builders walk up and down the scaffolding.

Natalie Carter said she had been left living in a home with no daylight
Natalie Carter said she had been left living in a home with no daylight. Picture: LBC

"Once you make it through the years of hell of realising your home is worthless and unsafe, of worrying about who pays to fix it, then this is what comes next."

"So we get absolutely no daylight, 24 hours a day. It could be sunny outside - raining - I wouldn't know.

She says it 'messes with your brain,' leaving her "with a combination of depression and anger."

Despite the difficulties, she knows they are comparatively lucky.

The Developer Ballymore, is covering remaining remediation costs after a fire broke out last year, injuring 40 people, but she wants to sound a warning for all other blocks that will have to have this sort of work in the future.

"The problem is no one's given any thought to the mental and physical health of the people forced to live through this level of construction and remediation."

Soon, her windows and doors will be sealed shut, there will be no fresh air, leaving her home unbearably sweltering in the summer.

Although right now, some of her neighbours have the opposite problem, as removing cladding strips back vital insulation.

Andrew and his wife Jo both work from home and have resorted to living in the only warm room of the flat.

She greets me in several jumpers, a blanket, and a hot water bottle, he explains they have to keep all doors shut, and the heating on almost constantly.

Energy bills have already gone up by 60%, but now they have the heating on all the time, he's too scared to check the meter reading.

Natalie says they asked about being rehomed, but it would cost far too much.

Especially as, in the rush to get the cladding off, they've hit major scheduling delays:

"There's problems getting scaffolding, there's problems getting scaffolders. There's problems with getting key skilled workers, and now the latest is even though the building safety fund set a milestone for the end of last year to remove the dangerous cladding, there's no replacement cladding. There are no materials. They’re coming from Europe, so we have no idea when they're actually going to show up.

"We just don't know, is this a two month delay - a six month delay - a year? All the while we're deprived of daylight, listening to this interminable sound.

"It's not good enough. For the benefit of all the thousands of buildings to come; the Government, builders, companies involved need to think about the fact that people have to live here while all this is happening."

Ballymore said in a statement: “Cladding remediation works are underway across Ballymore’s developments and will be completed as quickly as possible.

"We will continue to do all we can to minimise disruption for residents as works are completed.

"It is our intention that leaseholders at New Providence Wharf will not bear any of the costs of cladding remediation."