For communities to thrive, the UN states we need to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” Until recently, this was not the case for residents of Caspian Quarter, an apartment block in East London built with Grenfell-style cladding and other combustible materials.
But thanks to a grassroots campaign run since May 2021 by residents associations, local organisations and unions, the inhabitants are celebrating new safety provisions. The housing developer, Bellway, announced it will pay to rectify the buildings’ defects, rather than burden residents with these costs.
In one of the lowest income communities of leaseholders in London, this certainly comes as welcome news.
Chloe Waite is a co-founder of the campaign group, Action of Fire Safety Justice, and a resident in Caspian Quarter. She explains: “It’s just such a massive relief for us all as residents. It’s one of the cheapest blocks to buy within the M25 and basically everyone’s bought on help to buy.”
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“What that means is a lot of people here have really scrimped and saved just to get that first foot on the property ladder. Then suddenly, they were hit by bills to improve the building’s safety,” she adds.
Families living in the three-bedroom apartments of the Casper Quarter initially received bills of around £6,000 just to replace their hazardous balconies.
Another co-founder of Action of Fire Safety Justice, Joanna explains: “The building safety crisis has so many facets and consequences. In addition to safety and financial worries, it puts tremendous pressure on leaseholders’ and their families’ mental health.”
But now that the developer will cover these costs, this stress has completely lifted.
“In the shop the other day, a resident stopped me just to express how relieved he was that he didn’t have such a huge financial weight hanging over him anymore,” Chloe recounts.
Strengthening community bonds
The campaign has also united residents from diverse backgrounds who otherwise may not have met. In the run up to their victory, they baked, shared music, ran arts and crafts sessions and organised children’s activities. “It felt almost like a neighbourhood party,” Chloe smiles.
Joanna adds: “I am over the moon and cannot describe the feeling of relief upon hearing the news of Bellway finally doing the right thing for Caspian Quarter after they had agreed to do the same for our friends at the Marconi development in Chelmsford.”
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Built under four years ago, the properties of Caspian Quarter received the lowest (B2) rating on its EWS1 form at the start of 2021, meaning the six blocks that comprise the development was deemed to be at a “high risk of fire”, despite all being under 18 metres in height. The identified defects were missing or poorly installed cavity barriers, B-rated ACM cladding and combustible balcony decking.
Around the UK other properties face similar issues. Action of Fire Safety Justice call upon Bellway to remediate the rest of their defective buildings, and on other developers to follow suit, protecting residents’ lives and livelihoods.
Find out more on the campaign’s Facebook page.