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Mon February 17 2020

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Cardiff tower block faults frustrate residents

1 Nov 19 Residents of a Cardiff Bay development built a little over 10 years ago fear that their homes are now ‘effectively worthless’ due to a litany of construction and fire safety defects.

Image - Dave Croker, Creative Commons
Image - Dave Croker, Creative Commons

The Celestia development in Cardiff Bay has 457 apartments and was built in 2006 by Laing O’Rourke for Redrow.

The Celestia Action Group says that building defects began to materialise after about six years. Sewage pipes ruptured and flooded apartments with raw sewage. Render fell from the buildings, with one piece damaging a car parked beneath.

According to the action group, the faults did not stop there. Every circuit board has had to be repaired recently because they did not comply with regulations; rainwater has been penetrating windows and render into flats and underground parking; and residents have been ‘banned from using balconies’ due to safety concerns.

Then ealier this year, on top of all this, it failed a fire safety inspection.

The fire safety report found significant shortcomings in fire protection. “There is a theme of very poor or non-existent fire-stopping through all seven buildings,” the report said.

Mark Thomas bought one of the apartments in 2007. He said: “Today those flats are effectively worthless due to a whole series of major construction and fire safety defects. Recent fire service prohibition notices and orders mean that leaseholders, who bought in good faith, are looking at having to pay up thousands of pounds for remedial work that is not of their making. Meanwhile Redrow’s ‘broken-record’ response is to say that it is nothing to do with them as they developed the homes under a design and build contract with Laing O’Rourke.

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“Whilst hundreds of people are living with huge stress and worry, Redrow, who made £406m profit last year, are dragging their feet. Along with the stress caused by the fire safety concerns and the potential financial pressures, young growing families cannot move and pension plans cannot be realised. Such are the problems old people are not allowed to live or even visit one of the buildings involved. It's a huge and shocking mess.”

Asked for a comment, Redrow said: "The situation at Celestia is far from unique, since the tragic Grenfell disaster many high-rise apartment blocks across England and Wales have been inspected revealing issues with fire protection – there are also probably many more blocks around the country with similar issues that remain undiscovered.

“At Celestia the Welsh Fire & Rescue Service have served enforcement notices requiring two areas of work to be completed within the next 12 months. Firstly, some internal fire stopping needs to be undertaken and secondly, an improved evacuation plan has to be implemented.

“Although Redrow did not design or construct the buildings at Celestia, we have been working with the managing agents [Celestia Management Company Limited] and put forward a proposal to provide funding for the works to comply with the enforcement notice and additionally, to install a new fire alarm system that will make the buildings safer and replace the ‘waking watch’.

“We do appreciate the residents have been particularly concerned over the safety of the building in the event of a fire. The proposals we have tabled largely address these concerns and should give them the reassurances they seek. We hope that the management company will shortly be in a position to write to residents with an update."

A Laing O'Rourke spokesperson said: “Laing O'Rourke is in discussions with Celestia Management Company Limited as CMCL work through their investigations. We are unable to comment further at this time.”

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