New homes on offer to blaze-hit families

FAMILIES who lost their homes in Kensington’s Grenfell Tower blaze will be rehoused, permanently, in 68 brand-new flats at a luxury complex, where the cheapest one costs £1.8m.

Residents who escaped the blaze are expected to take up permanent residence in the next two months, when the apartments, still in the same borough, have been “fast-tracked” to completion.

The Kensington Row development, in Warwick Road, is just 1.5 miles south of Grenfell, in which last Wednesday’s blaze left at least 79 people dead, or missing and presumed dead.

These homes are located within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, but they are at the more-affluent, southern end of the borough.

The properties are a mixture of one, two and three-bedroom flats, and will provide “longer-term accommodation” to the 250 residents now living in hotels around the area.

Two-bedroom properties within the “posh” complex are on sale for up to £2.4m, but it is understood that the City of London Corporation paid around £10m for the flats thanks, to an “extraordinary gesture” of goodwill by developer St Edward, which is selling the properties at cost price.

A property source said: “It is a huge gesture by the company, and it just goes to show what kind of mark-up there is.”

The City of London Corporation purchased all the development’s flats, which will become part of its social housing stock, in a deal brokered by the Homes and Communities Agency on behalf of the Government.

Its chairman, Sir Edward Lister, said: “We are identifying suitable properties in the local area to rehouse residents as quickly as possible, as well as offering support to local authorities to run checks on any high-rise buildings.

“We will do everything in our power to help those whose lives have been blighted by this horrendous fire, and reassure those who live in similar buildings that their homes are safe.”

The complex, in one of the most sought-after postcodes in London, features a gym, swimming pool and 24-hour concierge service, although access to the services will not be made available to Grenfell residents.

But reactions to the survivors’ upmarket accommodation were mixed. Many residents were relieved to hear that they would, finally, be receiving some good news, while others were less compassionate.

Anna, who is in her sixties, has lived in her nearby flat for 40 years. And she will not be happy to see the Grenfell residents rehoused in her area.

“North Kensington is not this Kensington,” she said defiantly. “They should be in a place where they are happy, but not here. I don’t want them here.

“In the circumstances, they can’t all expect to be rehoused in these parts of London. Someone has to pay that money, and, if they can afford to pay the rent there, they should pay rent somewhere else.”

But her friend Margaret, who also lives in the area, disagreed, asking her: “Where are they going to go? They can’t stay on the streets.”

One mother-of-two, who did not want to be named, said she was disgusted by her neighbours’ reaction. “They are saying, ‘Have you heard about how they are letting these people who don’t work live in luxury apartments’?” she said.

“They are saying that they don’t want these people here in their apartments; that they rely too much on the government. They are saying, ‘I pay £5,000 a month to live here’.”

She added: “I just thought, ‘Oh my God. Haven’t these people suffered enough’?”

The move follows calls by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for luxury homes in the borough to be requisitioned.

He said last week: “Kensington is a tale of two cities. The south part of Kensington is incredibly wealthy … it’s the wealthiest part of the whole country.

“The ward where this fire took place is, I think, the poorest ward in the whole country, and properties must be found, requisitioned, if necessary, to make sure those residents get rehoused locally.”

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, said: “The residents of Grenfell Tower have been through some of the most harrowing and traumatic experiences imaginable, and it is our duty to support them.

“Our priority is to get all those who have their homes rehoused locally as soon as possible, and permanently, so that they can begin to rebuild their lives.

“The government will continue to do everything we can, as fast as we can, to support those affected by this terrible tragedy.”

Grenfell Tower renovations were inspected 16 times over the two years, during which, apparently, flammable cladding was added to the building, it has been reported.

Building inspectors working for Kensington and Chelsea council (RBKC) carried out the checks, the first on 29th August 2014 and the last on 7th July 2016, after which a completion certificate for the renovation was issued, according to The Guardian newspaper.

Rydon Construction, which performed the renovation, said shortly after the blaze that the materials used “met all required building control, fire regulation and health & safety standards”.

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