Defects in South Kilburn block results in all occupiers forced to move home

PUBLISHED: 16:23 02 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:23 02 May 2019

Merle Court, South Kilburn. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Merle Court, South Kilburn. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Jonathan Goldberg

All occupiers of a housing block in South Kilburn will be forced to move out due to “defects” with the building.

Merle Court, a development owned by Catalyst Housing, was built by Willmott Dixon in 2012 as part of the much lauded South Kilburn regeneration project.

Of the 50 occupiers, eight own and rent their homes as part of a shared ownership deal and 42 are social tenants.

They attended a meeting on Tuesday after this paper had gone to press.

The building is clad in aluminium composite material (ACM), similar to the material used to cover Grenfell Tower. In the wake of the fire there in 2017, the Merle Court cladding was deemed safe.

But last year government regulations changed and now the cladding needs to be replaced and other defects dealt with. Catalyst would not say what these were.

Writing to residents, the housing association said: “We knew there were other faults within the external walls that required attention, but this new guidance has significantly increased the amount of work needed to Merle Court.”

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All of the brickwork as well as the cladding will be removed and replaced to enable Catalyst to “rectify defects, replace insulation and undertake other works to the block”. It is expected to take two years.

Some tenants will be offered another Catalyst property while others will have to bid on the council's Locata system.

Catalyst will buy back shared ownership flats at “current market value” but pricing structures where occupiers pay a mortgage and pay rent may impact leaseholders.

Kilburn councillor Abdi Abdirazak said: “We are very concerned about the situation. We are waiting to see whether the relocation and compensation packages meet and fulfil the needs of the leaseholders and tenants.”

He added: “We need to understand why Catalyst hasn't moved on this, particularly as the problem with cladding has been known for some time.”

Pete Firmin, chair of Alpha, Gorfield and Canterbury Residents' Association, added: “There's a big issue about the quality of what's being built in South Kilburn and Brent needs to look at that.”

A Catalyst spokesperson said households would be spoken to individually. “Catalyst is determined to do the right thing, to provide support to everyone in Merle Court during the rehousing process, and ensure residents' rights are protected and no one is left out of pocket as a result of the works.”

There was no comment on why the company did not act earlier.

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