RESIDENTS of a block of flats which has been deemed unsafe have been left in limbo after the installation of a new fire alarm system has been delayed.

Work was due to begin at Crown Heights on the installation of a new fire detection system this week, although this has now been delayed and is expected to start on March 15.

The Gazette understands this is because they are unable to get in touch with some of the leaseholders, to enable access to their properties.

It means that a costly fire patrol - called a waking watch - of the building will continue, with residents set to pick up the bill.

This newspaper reported last month how Crown Heights was found to be wrapped in flammable material, with no fire breaks.

Expanded polystyrene, also known as EPS, was found in the building's cladding in an intrusive survey carried out in December 2020.

It means that residents have been unable to sell their homes as prospective buyers are unable to get a mortgage on the apartments.

'We just don't need this'

A resident of Crown Heights, who wished not to be named, said the news was “unbelievable”, adding: “They constantly send letters and bills through the post so they have got a myriad of ways of getting in touch with us.

“We just don’t need this,” she continued, adding that she “went and cried my eyes out to my parents” on hearing the news.

“There are just too many people living through this and can’t make plans.

“You are just trapped.”

She added that she believes there will be a “lasting impact” on the price of properties in the building: “Anybody who has grown up in Basingstoke will remember this.

“I want FirstPort [the management company] to commit to this work within the timeframe they promised us.

“I want them to start this as soon as possible and stop charging leaseholders extortionate waking watch fees.

“I want Maria Miller to stand up in the House of Commons and support us, and I want the government to actually fulfill their promise that leaseholders should not be held responsible for the cost.”

Leaseholders could face bill

A spokesperson for FirstPort said: “Following advice from an independent fire engineer, we immediately started preparation to install the new fire alarm system.

"As with any job of this size, we had to follow a consultation process with leaseholders, and the works had to go out to tender to find a suitable contractor at a competitive price. We made arrangements to accelerate this process to enable to works to start as soon as possible.

“The waking watch will be removed as soon as the new fire detection system is installed.

"We have submitted an application to the Government's new Waking Watch Relief Fund, which we hope may secure funding for the fire alarm installation.

"We are of course continuing to keep residents updated as this progresses.”

It is understood the Waking Watch Relief Fund will only cover the up front cost of the new alarm system, and not the cost of the waking watch itself, which residents believe may cost them £450 each for every six weeks it is in place.

The Gazette previously reported how residents could be asked to pick up the bill for the waking watch.

FirstPort previously said that a reserve fund will "help to cover this cost", but have not guaranteed that leaseholders will not be expected to cover the costs should this not be enough.

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