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Government Orders Vista Tower Freeholder to Fix Fire Safety Issues

Government Orders Vista Tower Freeholder to Fix Fire Safety Issues

The government has won a landmark legal challenge against a freeholder, forcing it to fix serious building safety issues in a Stevenage block called Vista Tower.

Government Orders Vista Tower Freeholder To Fix Fire Safety Issues
Vista Tower In Stevenage. Image: Google Maps

Multiple serious fire safety issues were first identified in 2019, with remedial work costing around £15 million and leaseholders being handed bills asking them to pay a service charge of up to £208,000.

The government launched Legal action against Grey GR in October 2022 following what it calls “unacceptable delays in fixing multiple serious fire safety issues, first identified in the building in 2019.”

Grey GR is ultimately owned by Railpen, which manages £34 billion in assets.

Following a court trial in March, the court has decided in favour of the government and will issue a Remediation Order imposing a legally binding requirement on Grey GR to fix building safety issues within a mandated timeframe.Government Orders Vista Tower Freeholder To Fix Fire Safety Issues Housing Secretary Michael Gove says: “Leaseholders have lived with uncertainty for far too long while Grey GR delayed essential works to make homes safe. This decision is a victory for leaseholders in Vista Tower and nationwide.“It is hugely disappointing that Railpen – the ultimate owner of Grey GR and who manages £34 billion in ‘assets’ – has kept leaseholders in limbo in this way. Railway workers, with their pensions invested in this fund and innocent leaseholders, deserve better.

“This court case should serve as a warning to all building owners. If you fail to fix your unsafe buildings and ensure the safety of residents, we will see you in court. We will not stop until we secure justice for leaseholders.”

The government statement on the case cites Sophie Bichener, a leaseholder in Vista Tower, who says:“I am very pleased to see this remediation order has been made. This gives leaseholders the reassurance we deserve and is the closest we have been to regaining our freedom after what has been an extremely difficult few years.”

The Vista Tower case was the first legal action brought by the government under new powers introduced through the Building Safety Act 2022.

Following the commencement of legal action, Grey started work on Vista Tower in January 2024. The Remediation Order will provide an exact date by which the work must be completed, or Grey could face sanction from the Court.

The government is also seeking remediation orders on a further five Grey GR buildings that have or will be going to trial over the next year. This includes The Chocolate Box in Bournemouth, where, as a result of government legal action, Grey has now started remediation works.

The government has also already secured four remediation orders against freeholder Wallace Estates, benefitting approximately 400 leaseholders that had faced delays to remediation.

Councils, fire and rescue services, and the Building Safety Regulator all have powers under the Building Safety Act to take enforcement action against building owners who do not comply with their obligations and discharge their responsibilities to leaseholders.

Fire Safety Manager James Taylor at Legionella and Fire Safe Services said, “We commend the government on their successful legal challenge against Grey GR regarding the critical fire safety issues at Vista Tower in Stevenage. This decisive action highlights the importance of prioritising residents’ safety and well-being above all else.

The delays in addressing the identified fire safety concerns since 2019 were indeed unacceptable, and we are heartened to see the court ruling in favour of the government. This landmark decision, mandating Grey GR to remediate the building within a specified timeframe, is a significant victory for leaseholders who have endured prolonged uncertainty and risk.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove’s remarks underscore the broader implications of this case. It is crucial for all building owners to recognize their responsibilities and act swiftly to rectify any safety deficiencies. The repercussions of failing to do so are now clear, and this should serve as a stark warning to those who might consider delaying necessary safety measures.

We extend our support to the leaseholders of Vista Tower and other affected buildings. Introducing the Building Safety Act 2022 and its enforcement is a critical step forward in ensuring that such issues are addressed promptly and effectively in the future”.

 

As Fire Safety Experts Legionella and Fire Safe Services, we remain committed to assisting property owners and managers in meeting their safety obligations. Ensuring safe living conditions is a shared responsibility, and we are here to provide the expertise and services necessary to achieve compliance and protect residents.

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