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Cladding repair bill is same as £230k price of this Hertfordshire flat

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When homeowner Sophie Bichener, 29, bought her flat in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, in 2017 for £230,000, she had no idea about the potentially crippling costs that lay ahead.

She moved into the flat just before the fire at Grenfell Tower, in West London, which caused 72 deaths.

Like so many other purchasers, Sophie bought moved into her flat believing that it was safe because it complied with building regulations. 

However, her flat has since deemed to be unsafe in the wake of the Grenfell fire.

Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, concerns about cladding have become a national issue

Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, concerns about cladding have become a national issue

Like so many other flat owners affected by fire safety issues, she has been left unable to sell her property, as mortgage lenders will no longer offer loans without fresh proof of safety. 

Her block of flats has been deemed unsafe and fire safety repairs need to be carried out. 

But the bill for the repairs are eye-watering, almost matching what she originally paid for the flat. 

This summer she was quoted £202,077 to fix just her flat, which is not far from the £230,000 that she originally paid for her home.

She understands that some of the £14million-plus costs to fix her block will be met from the Building Safety Fund, but it is not yet known how much financial assistance – if any – she will get.

This leaves her facing the unknown, a situation many flat owners find themselves in through no fault of their own.  

She says it is likely that she will have to relocate during the works for at least a month.

Sophie Bichener, 29, bought her flat in Stevenage, Hertfordshire in 2017 for £230,000, but has since been quoted £202,077 to fix her flat, which has deemed to be unsafe

Sophie Bichener, 29, bought her flat in Stevenage, Hertfordshire in 2017 for £230,000, but has since been quoted £202,077 to fix her flat, which has deemed to be unsafe

Her block is home to 73 flats spread across 14 storeys. It is above 18 metres and had problems with combustible cladding and missing fire breaks.

It is unknown when the fire safety work is expected to begin as the Government has yet to confirm whether it will provide funding for her block.

But once the work does start, it is suggested that it could take 52 weeks, meaning Sophie would be effectively living on what would look like a building site for a year.

The block has already paid for six months of a waking watch at a cost of £600 a month per flat. Those payments stopped following the installation of new fire alarms.

Sophie told MailOnline Property: ‘We have a supportive network of leaseholders and so you can take time out from dealing with it. However, being in lockdown and in the flat twenty-four seven means I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure this out.

‘Knowing that when you go to work that money has already been spent has been disheartening.

‘We just have to do what we can. It is easier for me to talk about it now, but there are people I know who are suicidal. While the Government is playing ‘who is to pay’, leaseholders are struggling to survive.’

‘We have had to put our life on hold. I can’t spend any money as I know I shall have a bill at the end of all of this, although I don’t know how much that will be.

‘I’d like to get married and have children, but simply cannot afford to contemplate that at the moment.’

Campaigners have called ministers of ignoring cladding victims’ screams for help.

Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, said: ‘Ministers have betrayed leaseholders like Sophie. Ignoring their screams for help, dismissing their dreams and refusing to listen.

‘Leaseholders need practical support, not more weasel words and I will continue to fight for people like Sophie.

‘Leaseholders are not to blame, but they are facing devastating mental health and financial costs as they are left to pay more in remediating their flats, than they are now worth. It is a tragic market failure and we must step in as a government to support them.’

It follows an announcement by Robert Jenrick that neither leaseholders nor taxpayers should pay for dangerous cladding to be removed. 

He said that the law will be changed retrospectively to give homeowners 15 years to take action against their developers for shoddy workmanship.  

A MHCLG spokesman responded, saying: “Building owners should make buildings safe without passing on costs to leaseholders – and we will introduce a new legal requirement for owners of high-rise buildings to prove they have tried all routes to cover the cost of fixing their buildings.

“We are processing applications to the Building Safety Fund as quickly as possible – and we have been clear that we will fund the removal of dangerous cladding from high rise building where remediation is necessary.

“Our approach strikes the right balance in our continuing commitment to protecting leaseholders and being fair to taxpayers – while reassuring lenders that where cladding remediation is needed, costs will not be a barrier or mean that mortgage payments become unmanageable.”

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IHG to open new hotel in Brussels (BE)

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IHG Hotels & Resorts (IHG) announced the signing of voco Brussels City North, marking entry into a new market. Due to open in autumn 2023, the 92-key voco Brussels City North property will be operated by Prem Group, a strong partner for IHG in the region. The state-of-the-art hotel will feature a restaurant and conference centre and will adjoin the Innovation Centre, which is already open on the site, to create a hub for hospitality innovation and a truly stimulating environment.

 

Located to the north of the city, the hotel will feature a striking 50-metre tower with huge glass windows providing panoramic views of the Brussels skyline. The site itself will be Europe’s largest experimental lab for creating ideas and a vision for the future. In line with voco hotels ethos, voco Brussels City North will stand out from the crowd and give guests a different choice.

 

Willemijn Geels, VP Development Europe, IHG Hotels & Resorts, said: “I’m delighted to announce that we are partnering with Living Tomorrow to bring voco hotels to Belgium. We know that Brussels is a strong market for branded properties, and we are confident that the voco hotels’ brand will fit well with the goal of creating a truly innovative hub on this unique site.”

 

Yin Oei, CEO, Living Tomorrow, said: “Living Tomorrow is focused on driving the future and we’re excited to partner with IHG to develop this exciting hotel – the first voco in Belgium. The values of voco hotels fit well with our desire to innovate and push boundaries and we know that the strength of the IHG systems will provide a stable platform from which to innovate.”

 

 

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Mitheridge and London Green unveil plans for Lambeth mix-use scheme (GB)

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Mitheridge Capital Management and London Green have unveiled plans for a residential-led, mixed-use development in Lambeth, south London. The project will make use of a former industrial site in Loughborough Junction, Lambeth, while also protecting the adjacent intersecting Victorian railway viaducts which remain a rich heritage asset.

 

Managing Partner of Mitheridge William Yerburgh said: “London desperately needs more homes. We believe strongly in an approach to housing provision that is affordable but also enhances the character and vibrancy of local communities. Our partnership with London Green will show that new housing provision can deliver for everyone.”

 

Daniel Rastegar, Investment Director at Mitheridge commented: “We are excited to work with London Green to deliver a scheme that will contribute positively to this area of Lambeth, both by providing highly sustainable, high-quality homes as well as new industrial space for SMEs.”

 

Harry Green, Director at London Green added: “This represents yet another opportunity to develop an underutilised site into a mixed community of sustainable homes and workplaces. We look forward to working with best-in-class consultants and contractors to deliver the vision that we share with Mitheridge Capital Management”.

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IIProp grows its presence in Spain

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IIProp (International Industrial Properties) has successfully delivered the initial phase of its built-to-suit project in the Spanish city of Murcia. The joint venture has also launched a new development project at a prime location in Nadarzyn, Warsaw South, Poland. The scheme is located in Murcia’s San Andres industrial park and offers 22,346m². The project is set to add another building of over 23,000m², bringing the total development area to 46,600m² GLA. Construction of a 23,000m² follow-on component is under way and scheduled for completion in January 2023. The project marks an important milestone for the IIProp’s expansion in Spain, where the platform has secured pipeline for development of some 63,000m² GLA in the Murcia and Barcelona regions. The development comes with excellent connectivity and visibility as it sits alongside the A7 highway, part of the Mediterranean transit corridor that links Spanish and Portuguese ports with mainland Europe. The project is set to obtain “Very Good” BREEAM certificate, which will be supported by green solutions such as solar panels, charging stations for electric cars, power sockets for electric bicycles and scooters as well as bicycle parking space and a bee shelter.

 

Nebil Senman, Managing Partner at Griffin Capital Partners, said: “The logistics market in Europe experienced an unprecedented growth during the pandemic and despite the geopolitical turmoil the tenant demand remains strong. We selectively are developing projects in Murcia and Warsaw with highest ESG standards and securing highest tenant covenants to fulfill core investor’s requirements. We plan to continue to build up carefully our European logistics footprint by selectively adding projects in core European markets as well as through converting our well-positioned land bank into standing assets.”

 

Maciej Dyjas, Managing Partner at Griffin Capital Partners, commented: “The projects in Murcia and Warsaw are another success stories in our strategic partnership with Panattoni. We continue to screen new European markets for entry and already begun working on potential development projects in countries like France, Italy, and Austria. In parallel, the IIProp’s pipeline stands at ca. 430,000m² GLA, despite latest disposals completed in Germany.

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