BASINGSTOKE’S MP has been criticised for missing the chance to end the cladding misery for residents of Crown Heights two years ago.

Basingstoke Gazette:

As previously reported, residents in the high-rise apartment block in the town centre will not be able to open their windows properly for up to 14 months and will lose the use of their balconies while work is carried out to replace the potentially dangerous cladding.

READ MORE: Crown Heights residents frustrated over cladding work

The external cladding at Crown Heights, which has around 250 flats, contains the flammable material ‘expanded polystyrene’ and features no fire breaks.

It means the building is at risk of being engulfed if a fire broke out, similar to the tragedy at Grenfell Tower in 2017.

Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Basingstoke, David Lawrence, has called out the town’s MP Maria Miller for missing the chance to resolve the issue for residents sooner.

He has highlighted that Mrs Miller opposed a Labour amendment to the Queen’s Speech in May 2021, which would have forced developers to remove cladding on tower blocks by June 2022.

MPs voted against the amendment by a majority of 138 meaning it did not become law and many residents living in high-rise tower blocks are still waiting for work to be done.

SEE ALSO: Crown Heights residents can open windows by 'up to' 10cm during cladding work

Mr Lawrence said: “Over the last year I have spoken to almost 100 residents in Crown Heights, who have been under a huge amount of emotional and financial pressure as a result of this cladding scandal.

"Residents are now being told that they will be unable to access their balconies or open their windows for 14 months before the cladding is removed. They continue to face expensive insurance premiums and fire risk and have not received any compensation from Barratt (the Crown Heights developer).

“Basingstoke’s Conservative MP, Maria Miller, could have voted to prevent this, but instead she did the opposite. In May 2021 Labour proposed an amendment which would have forced developers like Barratt to remove any cladding by June 2022.

"Disappointingly, this was opposed by Conservative MPs including Maria Miller, and so the cladding is still not removed. This legal amendment would have made a world of difference to residents in Crown Heights, and yet their own MP voted against it.”

He added: “The Conservative government has not set any deadline or any financial incentive for Barratt to get the job done quickly, and instead it is residents who are paying the price. There should be full compensation for any financial impact on residents.

"Labour would introduce legal requirements to protect leaseholders from the costs of removing cladding and introduce new regulatory powers to ensure situations like that in Crown Heights do not arise in the first place.”

Cllr Abdel Ibrahim, Labour councillor for Brookvale and King’s Furlong, said: “Knowing that Basingstoke’s MP, Maria Miller, prioritised politics over the interests of our residents when she had a chance to influence change makes me very disappointed.

“It is not fair on the Crown Heights residents to continue to deal with the consequences of the cladding issue. In response to the pressing concerns of the residents of Crown Heights, I had discussions with the council leader and officers who provided detailed briefings on the current situation and potential courses of action.

“During the meeting, the council deliberated on actions within its remit, and strategies to advocate for additional actions within the responsibilities of other parties. Furthermore, the council is actively engaged in discussions with Barratt Homes.”

Crown Heights failed an external wall system fire review certificate in 2021, leaving residents fearing for their safety and unable to sell their properties.

Barratt has since agreed to pay for the work, which was due to start in September.

However, work is yet to begin leaving residents frustrated by the delay and the news that they will lose the use of their balconies and outside children’s play area, which will be used to store materials.

Mrs Miller said: “The government, through the Building Safety Act, has stepped in to provide £5 billion to remediate dangerous cladding in high-rise buildings such as Crown Heights.

"There is a fully funded remediation plan in place for Crown Heights, there is also a complete plan for building works and residents have been briefed by Barratts directly.

"The pandemic has created delays along with the scale of the problem nationwide, working with residents I have endeavoured to speed up the process wherever possible but when it comes to building safety time needs to be given to get it right. 

“Financial protections came into force on the 28th June 2022 to safeguard all leaseholders from costs relating to the remediation of unsafe cladding systems.  

‘High-rise residential accommodation needs to be carefully planned in future; Basingstoke’s council who are the planning authority needs to learn lessons when considering any further plans for high-rise accommodation in our borough.”