By Tony Flood, author and former Fleet Street journalist who lives in Sovereign Harbour
As if the stress caused by the coronavirus and lockdown was not bad enough, people in Eastbourne and other areas are facing the additional nightmare of living with unsafe cladding which will cost thousands of pounds to replace – and possibly make homes unsellable.
Eastbourne and Willingdon MP Caroline Ansell has welcomed the government’s latest package of a further £3.5 billion to help leaseholders with the cost of replacing dangerous cladding on buildings.
But Housing Minister Robert Jenrick was accused of a ‘betrayal of homeowners’ after confirming only those living in buildings above 18m tall – or six storeys – will get taxpayers’ cash to replace the dangerous cladding.
Ironically, some apartments on Midway Quay, Sovereign Harbour, qualify for the grant and some have been approved. But the Government have not revealed to the owners what percentage of the costs they will pay.
So the long-awaited £5billion scheme for victims of the cladding scandal that emerged in the wake of the 2017 Grenfell Tower disaster could take years to implement.
Meanwhile, properties are likely to be unsellable unless the price is drastically reduced. I understand one Sovereign Harbour property that would normally fetch at least £230,000 recently went for only around £173,000 at auction!
Whether devastated owners stay put or try to sell, the losses will be huge when taking into account increased insurance premiums, management fees and over-cautious mortgage companies.
People living in buildings under 18m tall will have to pay for the repairs themselves using a ‘long-term, low-interest’ loan scheme that will cap their costs at £600 a year. But the loan will remain with the property rather than the leaseholder, raising fears it will be harder to sell later.
Local residents affected should not expect to receive a penny from their councils because Eastbourne and Bexley are among four councils in England to be given emergency funding by the government because they are unable to balance their books.
It comes as the government announces an extra £2.3bn of funding for councils’ core spending by next year.
Liberal Democrat deputy leader of Eastbourne council Stephen Holt said they had made £4m in savings this year, but had been hard hit by reduced tourism during the pandemic.
He told the BBC the sector – including theatres and conference venues – was normally about 60 per cent of the council’s annual income.
* A frustrating problem for some residents in Sovereign Harbour has been the complete lack of council support over a faulty drain system which continually overflows badly when it rains heavily.
I am among residents in Brisbane Quay to be told by both local borough and county councils that they do not consider it to be their problem because the part of the road we live in is regarded as private – even though it is a public right of way for everyone!