by Pete Mason, Chair, Barking Reach Residents’ Association
Three-quarters of cladding systems on new medium-rise buildings use combustible materials. Now residents trapped in fire-risk buildings are taking to the streets to protest outside the salerooms of builders and developers who refuse to rectify the problem.
Networks of angry residents have sprung up. The government has doubled down on its refusal to legislate to ensure that leaseholders, facing bankruptcy or a lifetime of debt, will not end up paying.
We had two successful protests outside the Bellway Homes showrooms on the Barking Riverside estate in east London, where a fire took place in 2019. We were joined by New Providence Wharf residents, who suffered a fire on 5 May (see ‘Canary Wharf fire’ at socialistparty.org.uk), and residents from three other estates.
Now our call for nationwide protests on 5 June, outside the sales offices of builders and developers, has received a big echo. Plans are being laid in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Ipswich and Southend. More than 50 attended a planning meeting.
We demand that the government should pay, and builders and developers should remediate without charging residents.
Bellway must pay! Make our homes safe!
7TH MAY 2021
by Ruth Mason, East London Socialist Party
On 1 May more than 60 residents of the Caspian Quarter gathered outside Bellway’s Barking showrooms to protest about the property developer’s failure to replace flammable balconies. Local Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate and Socialist Party member, Pete Mason addressed the crowd who were shouting: “Bellway must pay!” and “Make our homes safe!” Pete has led the campaign against flammable cladding and balconies since the Samuel Garside House fire in Barking, 2019.
Just two years after the Grenfell fire, a fire on one of the balconies of Samuel Garside House turned the whole front of the building into an inferno within seven minutes. Samuel Garside House is a modern block of flats built within the last decade by the developers, Bellway Homes. The Caspian Quarter is a group of several blocks of flats which Bellway built even more recently. Only about a quarter of a mile from Samuel Garside House, the blocks of the Caspian Quarter also have flammable balconies.
In the immediate aftermath of the Samuel Garside fire, Bellway agreed to replace the balconies at no cost to the residents, but they have so far made no effort to do so.
The government’s recently passed Fire Safety Act does nothing to assist leaseholders in the Caspian Quarter. The £5 billion pledged by the government to remove dangerous cladding incomprehensibly only applies to buildings over 18 metres tall, and lets the big property developers like Bellway off scot-free to continue to rake in billions in profits.