First legal action over fire safety delays on a tall building

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The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has taken the first step in legal action against a freeholder for failing to fix building safety defects.

Grey GR Limited Partnership, the owners of Vista Tower, a fifteen-storey tower block in Stevenage, have been told to start remedial works or be forced to by the courts.

The freeholder is one of the first to face action by the newly created Recovery Strategy Unit. The Unit was set up to identify and pursue firms who repeatedly refuse to fix buildings, working closely with other enforcement authorities.

The government says it will pursue other firms who repeatedly refuse to fix buildings which need cladding and safety remediation works. Photograph: iStock

Sophie Bichener, leaseholder in Vista Tower, is one of more than 100 residents in the Hertfordshire block. She faced a £208,00.00 bill to cover remediation work to strip combustible cladding from the tower.

The 30-year old had moved into her first home shortly before the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, reports the Times. She then discovered after the tragedy that her apartment block was also covered in highly flammable materials.

Miss Bichener said: “This action is a step in the right direction for the innocent leaseholders still desperately pleading with their building owners to take responsibility.

Now the leaseholder protections are in force – it should serve as a warning to those entities still playing games and doing all they can to dodge their legal obligations.”

In a statement quoted on, a spokesperson for Grey GR said they were “surprised and disappointed” to receive a letter from DLUHC about the legal action:

“The letter received contained a number of factual inaccuracies which we will address in due course," they said.

“We have been in regular dialogue with senior officials at the department to address several unclear aspects within the legislation, and we have not been alone in raising these issues.

“We have been seeking the necessary clarity on the process in order to move forward, engaging constructively with the department in support of applications for Building Safety Fund grants to deliver the remediation works and ensure the safety of our residents.”

The DLUHC said that while Grey GR had registered with the Building Safety Fund in 2020, the funding agreement had not been signed, meaning the government cannot release any money.

There are at least 23 other buildings registered with the Building Safety Fund that have been unable to progress due to unnecessary delays. The department is examining these cases closely and considering next steps.

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