“More than a dozen fire safety concerns have been uncovered in a new housing complex covered in Grenfell-style flammable cladding, built by one of Britain’s biggest housebuilders, Galliard Homes.
In the weeks after the Grenfell Tower fire, which claimed 71 lives, defective fire doors, missing fire-stopping, dangerous fire escapes and holes in plasterboard meant to stop the spread of flames and smoke were identified by fire officials at New Capital Quay in Greenwich, London, which is home to about 2,000 people and opened in 2013.
The Guardian has learned that another deficiency notice from the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) was issued on 25 January in relation to all 11 blocks in the complex.
It identified 16 fire safety issues, including a lack of arrangements to evacuate vulnerable and elderly residents, an ineffective maintenance regime, a broken firefighting lift and a broken fire hydrant outside one of the blocks.
It also found that “the procedures to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger to relevant persons are inadequate”, raising residents’ fears about being trapped in the event of a fire.
Ruth Montlake, 85, who lives on the seventh floor of one of the blocks, said: “The fire situation is very worrying. I am hard of hearing; how will I know to evacuate?”
Simone Joseph, 35, a fashion buyer and mother of a seven-year-old boy, said there had been three fires in her block in the time she had lived there.
“To know that seven months down the line we are living in this property with this cladding is upsetting,” said Joseph, who rents from Hyde Housing, the head leaseholder of two of the blocks. “People have been cutting corners for so many years and are putting people’s lives at risk and they have to be held accountable.”
With more than 1,000 homes, New Capital Quay is believed to be one of the biggest single private housing developments in the country discovered to have flammable cladding in the wake of Grenfell. Galliard sold two-bedroom apartments for £700,000.
A fire warden patrol was put in place when the cladding was discovered last summer, but residents are concerned that it is still in place seven months after the west London disaster.
“We simply do not feel safe living in buildings with defective cladding that could rapidly go up in flames while we are sleeping,” one woman told the local council in an email exchange.
Galliard said some of the defects identified in July had been addressed and there had been no issue with missing fire-stopping material, just an error during the inspection.
It said the building was different to Grenfell: “Totally unlike Grenfell, NCQ was built and still has full and proper fire precautions with fire doors, fire-stopping, fire alarms, smoke-extract systems and no gas in apartments. The block at NCQ which has the most cladding has a full sprinkler system throughout.”
It also said that three of the 16 issues raised by fire authorities in its latest report were “not true” and questioned two further issues.
Asked whether residents were safe, Galliard said LFEPA was the leading expert. “They have the statutory power to issue notices to evacuate the homes. They have to date decided not to do so,” it said.
While residents fear their lives are at risk while the cladding remains, they are also concerned they will be asked to pay the estimated £20m-£40m bill – between £20,000 and £40,000 a flat – to make it safe. In addition, they face a £1.25m bill for round-the-clock fire patrols.
But they are particularly concerned about how difficult it is to get information and said they were forced to use a freedom of information request to uncover the fire safety notices from the London Fire Brigade (LFB).
Galliard, which is facing a bill of up to £40m, is planning to sue the warranty and insurance provider, National House Building Council. NHBC has indicated it will defend the claim.
Meanwhile, 30 fire marshals are patrolling the 11 buildings 24 hours a day at an estimated cost of £25,000 a week. But residents are concerned that wardens are not the solution.
Annabel Parsons, 54, a business psychologist who lives in the complex, said one marshal had been spotted asleep and another had brought a blanket with him. Before they were equipped with hand-held klaxons, one warden said their plan to raise the alarm in the event of a fire involved throwing stones at windows, residents claimed. Galliard said that without a date, time, name and other details of the fire marshal, it was an “impossible allegation to investigate”.
Hyde Housing, which has interests in six of the blocks as well as being head leaseholder in two, said the situation was “very distressing” for residents.
“We urge all those bodies involved in resolving this matter to do so speedily,” said Brent O’Halloran, director of asset management at Hyde.
A recent tribunal regarding a building in Croydon was told that official guidance was that fire wardens were the “least-efficient, most resource-intensive” solution of three recommended by LFB.”