Leaseholders at three blocks of flats in Basingstoke which failed fire safety checks are set to be forced to pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds after more issues were found.

Residents at the 24-metre high Cherry, Holly and Elm blocks at the Victory Hill development in Winterthur Way are to be asked to pay £1,500 each this year.

It is to pay for work to replace timber decking on balconies that scale the building - which does not fall under the government's building safety fund - and is to be shared equally among all leaseholders rather than only those who have access to a balcony.

Work to replace the timber decking and replace them with fibre cement is set to cost more than £150,000, and combined with other works, could see leaseholders forced to come up with a total of more than £250,000.

The total project to make the three blocks, home to 247 properties, safe could cost as much as £2 million, with the bulk being covered by the government fund.

The council's portfolio holder for homes, Cllr Tristan Robinson, said that costs for remedial work "should be met by the building owner and not by residents whom purchased, or rent their properties in good faith".

And one of the area's ward councillors, Cllr Sam Jeans, said that residents "should not have to pay for additional work required following the investigation".

Fears balcony fire could rise up building

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service mandated that the balcony floors be replaced after a report found that a fire on the wooden decking could rise up the building.

The report found that despite the flames not reaching the bottom of the balcony above in the event of a fire, a layer of smoke forming on the underside of the base could cause the decking to ignite, sparking a chain reaction up the building.

It also said that if nothing was done to fix this issue, the building would fail its External Walls Survey (EWS1) report, meaning leaseholders would not be able to sell their flats because buyers could not obtain a mortgage.

A letter was sent to leaseholders saying they will be expected to pay £1,500 for the balcony works, regardless of whether they have a balcony or not.

This is because the work to replace the balcony floors is not covered by the government's £1 billion building safety fund.

Timing 'could not be worse'

Speaking to The Gazette, Cllr Sam Jeans (Conservative, Kings Furlong and Brookvale) said the timing "could not be worse" for people who may be undergoing financial hardship due to the impact of the Covid pandemic.

She said: "My personal feeling is that people should not have to pay for additional work required following the investigation.

"It is absolutely a lot of money and for a lot of people, they are really on hard financial times, being furloughed, on reduced pay, businesses under a lot of stress.

"The timing of these additional financial requirements could not be worse.

"We will do everything we possibly can to support people to avoid any unnecessary additional expenditure to improve their homes and to keep them safe.

"Cllr Robinson is working incredibly hard to source additional funding for people with any additional building work that may need to be done to ensure that people are safe.

"The priority for us is people's safety and peace of mind. They should not have to go to bed at night worrying 'will I wake up in the morning?', 'will I get out?'.

"We don't want a repeat of Grenfell in Basingstoke."

Previous issues

This news comes after The Gazette reported earlier this year that the three blocks of flats failed fire safety checks after penthouses were found to be wrapped in flammable material.

High-pressure laminate, which is up to 115 times more combustible than alternatives, was found to wrap the penthouses of the Cherry, Holly and Elm blocks.

A study published in 2019 warned a HPL-clad tower could be responsible for the next Grenfell Tower-style disaster.

Initial works to fit a new alarm system, and remove a costly 24/7 fire patrol, were completed earlier this year.

And this week, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council told The Gazette that work to replace the cladding on the penthouses "should be finished by May 2022".

This part of the works will be covered by the government's building safety fund.