'Stuck in limbo' - Wait for cladding report delays flat sales

Carli La Motte at Paper Mill Yard

Carli La Motte at Paper Mill Yard, where she has an apartment which she has been trying to sell - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

When the pandemic hit and work dried up for make-up artist Carli La Motte, she decided to sell her flat.

But five months after finding a buyer, concerns over cladding mean she is still waiting for the sale to go through.

Miss La Motte, 40, bought the apartment in Paper Mill Yard, off Norwich's King Street, in 2007 when the development was completed.

But when the mother-of-two put it on the market last autumn she had no idea that new fire safety regulations, introduced after the Grenfell tragedy, would delay any sale. 

Her two-bed apartment has no cladding directly on it, but other parts of the 180-apartment block do.

Carli La Motte at Paper Mill Yard, where she has an apartment which she has been told is unsaleable

Carli La Motte at Paper Mill Yard - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

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This led to a survey and fire inspection, paid for by social housing provider Clarion, which owns the leasehold on some of the apartments.

The survey found that more investigation was needed after "unknown materials" were found in the cladding and insulation. 

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"I have concluded that an adequate standard of safety is not achieved," the report said.

However, Miss La Motte is still waiting to hear what, if any work is going to be done, who will pay for it and whether her sale can still complete.

“The banks will not lend while it has this cladding issue," she said. "It is not the leaseholders’ fault. We just need some assurances, because I’m stuck in limbo at the moment.”

The company which owns the freehold of the building is represented by Norwich Residential Management (NRM) which has commissioned its own survey.

Guy Hudson, from NRM, said they were expecting that report back next week and would be in touch with leaseholders then.

Mr Hudson said that in 2018 NRM also commissioned a survey which showed that no ACM cladding - the type used on Grenfell Tower - was present.

"NRM is working hard to ensure that leaseholders aren't caught in the issues of being unable to sell or remortgage their properties," he added.

He said he hoped that the survey would find no repair work would be needed. 

However, even if it is, that cost should not fall on the leaseholders. The Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, said last month the government would fund the cost of replacing unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings 18 metres and over in England. 

A Clarion spokesperson said: "We can and will continue to work with NRM Ltd to ensure the building meets current guidance."

New insulation for tower blocks

Fire surveys are needed when selling flats are needed because of new guidance from the government last year. 

That new guidance has also meant that new flats being built at the opposite end of King Street, the St Anne’s Quarter, have had to have their insulation replaced. 

Developer Orbit said it was “enhancing” insulation at five of the new tower blocks which are due to be completed this year. 

A spokesperson said: “The safety of our customers is our absolute priority.”

They said that following the government guidance in January 2020 it had been carrying out “detailed investigations to ensure that all properties meet the updated guidance”.

On the opposite side of the river to Paper Mill Yard, sits five more tower blocks which have also had cladding issues.

Aluminium cladding on the blocks at Geoffrey Watling Way, behind Carrow Road, failed fire safety tests in 2017, which were undertaken after the Grenfell tragedy.

Developer Taylor Wimpey wrote to the residents at Robinson Bank, Nethercott Bank, Gavin Bank, Lochhead Bank and Brennan Bank in 2018 to say that the cladding would be replaced and that has since been done. 

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