Leaseholders in the dark over when they can return to evacuated flats
- Credit: Archant
Tenants who were abruptly evacuated from a city centre block of flats have said they are "frustrated" having being left in the dark on when they can return home.
St Peter's House in Cattle Market Street was evacuated in April with 53 people people forced to move out late at night - including around 20 leaseholders of the flats.
The privately owned building was found to have "serious hazards and deficiencies" with no mains power and multiple fault lights on the fire alarm panel.
Since then, the landlord of the site - Cattle Market Limited - has been working to ensure the building's safety issues are addressed.
A residents' association has been set up to represent the leaseholders as they continue to struggle to find out when they will be able to permanently move back home.
Laura Edwards, 35, is part of the association and moved into St Peter's House in May 2021.
She said: "A number of the leaseholders have sought legal advice from a local firm.
"People are frustrated by the lack of meaningful communication from the council to their solicitors.
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"We continue to call for the council's support to make sure the homes are safe and habitable as soon as possible."
The city council has said officers are continuing to carry out investigations and the authority is "proactively working" to help get leaseholders home.
And the situation was compared to the Grenfell tragedy at a city council meeting this week.
Beth Jones, cabinet member for safe, strong and inclusive neighbourhoods (Lab), said: "Five years after the Grenfell tragedy the case of St Peter’s House was deeply shocking, with a large property in central Norwich being occupied without any power, working fire protection or alarm systems and many serious breaches of building and housing regulations."
Peter Bronze, an advisor to the landlord dismissed comparisons to Grenfell as "not being the case".
He added: "The internal fire stopping was not on properly but that is now completely rectified and under control. It is being inspected by building control on a weekly basis.
"We are pushing hard to get the tenants and leaseholders back in as quick as possible. It would help if they did show some cooperation rather than negotiating and delaying with lawyers."
A 22-year-old tenant, who did not wish to be named, moved into St Peter's House with his 21-year-old boyfriend in February.
They have since found a place to stay in the city after being placed in temporary accommodation in Dereham - which the city council later admitted was unsuitable.
The former St Peter's House tenant said: "We were none the wiser when we moved in as we were given forms saying the safety checks were all done.
"There was no power and we raised all of the issues we spotted with maintenance. We were told it was temporary.
"In hindsight it was only a matter of time before we had to leave. It was extremely stressful trying to find somewhere else to live."
A spokeswoman for Norwich City Council said: “As a privately owned building, the owner of St Peter’s House is responsible for ensuring the property is safely maintained for all residents.
“The council has been clear to the landlord what works are required in order for us to determine that the building is safe to inhabit.
"We haven’t had the assurances we need yet but will continue to work proactively with the developer and other agencies including UK Power Networks, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service and CNC Building Control so we’re satisfied that all the necessary work is carried out by the owner of the building to ensure it’s safe for residents to return home.
“In the meantime council officers are carrying on with their investigations into this matter.”
Power has been reconnected to the vacant block but other safety works remain outstanding.