The City of London Corporation has called in lawyers to help it resolve a dispute with housebuilder Redrow over “potentially serious” fire safety concerns in a high-rise tower block.
In 2013, the corporation leased 16-storey former YMCA building Blake Tower, which is in the Barbican Estate, to Redrow. The housebuilder then redeveloped the building, turning the 218 YMCA bedrooms into 74 new flats.
The lease was due to revert to the City of London in October 2019, 30 months after the second development phase was completed. But a report by officers at the authority, which was published last week, says this was not possible due to “outstanding issues with the development works and considerable resident dissatisfaction”.
The report adds that the corporation “is now working with its legal adviser, Fieldfisher, on progressing this matter with Redrow”.
Some of the residents’ concerns related to fire safety measures. In September 2022, specialist consultants BRFPC carried out surveys of the building’s interior and found “specific potentially serious issues with the fire stopping (or lack of)” on and between fire compartment walls.
The corporation believes it is likely that the recent fire-stopping surveys will require further attention from the housebuilder. However, Redrow and JAR believe that there are “no outstanding defects in Blake Tower that require attention”, the report says.
According to the report, the City of London has been liaising with Redrow, its management agent JAR and the Blake Tower Residents Association (BTRA) to try to resolve the return of the lease “for some considerable time now”.
In addition to the fire safety concerns, the BTRA has told the corporation there are many other “perceived defects and maintenance issues”, which include water ingress, mould growth and blocked pipes.
But at a meeting in September last year, Redrow and JAR allegedly told the corporation that many of the issues raised by residents “relate to routine maintenance matters, not defects”. The report also says Redrow believes that “many of these matters are a result of lack of maintenance and housekeeping on the part of the residents themselves”.
A spokesperson for the City of London Corporation said: “These matters are the legal responsibility of the leaseholder Redrow Homes Limited. All residents deserve high standards of safety and comfort.
“The City Corporation continues to liaise with Redrow to ensure that all defects identified in the development of Blake Tower are rectified as quickly as possible.”
A Redrow spokesperson said: “We signed the industry-wide Building Safety Pledge in April 2022 and are committed to remediating life-critical fire safety issues on buildings of 11 metres or above.
“We are committed to addressing verified life-critical fire safety defects at Blake Tower and some works have already been undertaken, or are ongoing, in consultation with the City of London Corporation. We’re in ongoing communication with residents about any other issues raised.”
In February last year, Redrow added £10m to its fire safety fund to take the total to £36m, saying this was for “the estimated remediation of buildings for which we are the principal contractor”. It warned that more funds may be committed in future.
Last month, the first remediation contribution order under the Building Safety Act was made, with the freeholder ordered to repay leaseholders £195,000.