UK residents describe "living in darkness" for TWO YEARS after building wrapped in PLASTIC

Residents in an award-winning multi-million pound apartment complex are "living in permanent darkness" after the entire building was wrapped in PLASTIC.


Huge sheeting covers every inch of the six-storey high Islington Gates tower while the dangerous cladding is replaced with a non-flammable material.

But due to delays in having the work done, residents in the 141 flats in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter have been unable to see out of their windows for six months.

Leaseholders who paid between £160,000 and £200,000 for the apartments are also facing five-figure bills to put up the new cladding.

Many residents are first-time buyers who bought the properties with mortgages before a fire safety review outlawed certain cladding following the Grenfell fire tragedy.

The review found Islington Gates' aluminium and cedarwood cladding was different to that at Grenfell but was still too flammable and needed replacing.

Scaffolding was put up and workmen started removing the cladding in April this year but plastic sheeting still shrouds the 250m-long building.

As well as being denied a view and living in permanent gloom, residents have also complained about leaking ceilings and mould.

Jennifer Reid, 40, bought her one-bedroom sixth-storey flat in February 2019 and found out later that year there was a "significant fire safety issue".

The marketing manager said: "It's been a really tricky, horrible two years having committed to buy the flat and then learning I was on the hook for a pretty huge bill.

"The government are now going to be funding a significant portion of the work, but my initial bill was £50,000, that's on a £160,000 flat.

"Now it is about £30,000 that will be covered but I'm still on the hook for a serious amount of money.

"I'm already mortgaged up to my eyeballs.

"It could be over £10,000 and on top of that my service charge had doubled as well from £1,400 to £2,800-a-year.

"This all happened and then Covid happened so I've been working from home

"We used to have views across the city but now the plastic completely blocks the light. It's pretty miserable.

"It is dark and cold and compounded by the fact they've taken the bricks out and it's starting to get darker now so you have to have your lights on all of the time."

Her neighbour, legal professional Danny Kelly, 30, has been a leaseholder on the sixth floor since 2018 and lives with his 27-year-old fiancée Danielle Poole.

The five-figure bill Danny faces has forced them to put their marriage plans on hold.

He said: "We were told we didn't have the same cladding as Grenfell, so we thought 'great' but government advice changed and it fell within the scope of what needed to be removed.

"We had some timber and panel-style cladding which was too flammable.

"They also discovered fire safety defects like there being no fire breaks.

"They had been signed off as having been put in but they hadn't.

"We had wooden balconies which needed to be removed.

"My balcony used to overhang the canal, so it was a nice view.

"I was shielding last year so I couldn't go outside and that was the only fresh air I had."

Danny said leaseholders were told the building's repair bill was £9million and his share ran to £75,000.

The Government's Building Safety Fund, announced in the 2020 spring budget, reduced his bill but still left him out of pocket.

He added: "It's gone down to £10,000 or £11,000 but it's still five figures.

"The leaseholders are the only party not a fault at all.

"The developers, planners, builders, contractors, surveyors have all made mistakes.

"Now the cladding's off it's the disruption from the work and the wet and cold that are the issues.

"And I've lost my view because of the plastic.

"There's no sunlight, I can't tell what the weather is.

"When the wind blows the scaffolding pipes it makes a drumming noise and that's

throughout the night.

"In the day the workmen are two metres from my desk - the drilling, knocking out the brick out is very loud.

"There's no privacy because there are people walking past every day.

"I either let people see in or close my blinds all day.

"When there was heavy rain a few months ago water got into my flat through a hole in the concrete.

"It got into my light sockets and fused all my lights.

"Then around the windowsill the water gets in and I can't even open them to get rid of the mould which will be an even bigger problem over winter."

"We were told the work would be done by the end of October but we are there now and there is no sign of it."

Shabana Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, has been an advocate for leaseholders.

She said: "While it's welcome that the cladding works have finally started, there are already significant delays.

"The damage to flats is completely unacceptable.

"These issues are driving many leaseholders to the brink of financial ruin and only compounding the significant toll on the mental health of my constituents."

The award-winning Islington Gates, comprising of apartments, offices and restaurants was built on the banks of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal at a cost of £30million and was completed in 2018.

Philip Davis, Chair of Islington Gates' Leaseholder Management Board, said: "The Leaseholder Board is well aware of the unpleasant conditions imposed by the removal of the cladding.

"Working with our Building Consultants and the works contractor Woodman Bros. Ltd., we are doing all we can to get the fire safety works finished.

"The Government grant paying for some of the fire safety costs makes no provision for funding alternative accommodation.

"Any such cost would fall on all leaseholders and is not sustainable given the already substantial costs we all face for the building industry's negligence.

"Unfortunately the plastic sheeting covering the site and other impacts of the works are unavoidable as we push forward with the £8million plus fire safety works."