|The continuing complaints on the part of some homeowners about the flats at the ex-OEM projects in the south district cannot simply be brushed under the carpet. The Government failed to resolve many of these issues before people moved in which means that the political responsibility for any continuing problems and for any inconvenience caused to residents rests firmly with the GSD and with nobody else.
The Chief Minister has played down the significance of these by saying that they are “minor complaints”, “relatively minor problems” and “entirely normal in new buildings of this kind”. The point is that they may seem minor to him, but many people who have purchased property there will obviously have a different perspective on the situation, particularly after the long delays that have been experienced.
It will be recalled that after heavy rainfall at the end of last year, there were a number of reports of water penetration which appeared to be concentrated in the area of the windows and balconies of some flats. There were also complaints made at the time that some ceiling lamps in communal walkways were full of water. This raised serious questions of safety.
It also emerged that there have been problems with both the front doors and the windows in these developments. The original windows at Cumberland Terraces were outward-opening, side-hung with an integrated restrictor which locked automatically when the window was open. This meant that they only opened to about 20cm. The Government, through its property company, initially defended the window as a safety device both to protect children and to prevent it from swinging backwards and forwards and slamming shut.
However, it was only after a series of complaints from purchasers, which were highlighted by the Opposition, that the GSD took the policy decision to change the windows. The total cost of the replacement programme up to January was £210,162, with the final sum dependent on how many residents of Cumberland Terraces decided to opt for the replacement windows. A total of 498 windows in Nelson’s View and 314 windows in Bayview were replaced already before anyone moved into the flats.
The Government also decided that the front door of the flats needed to be changed after people were already living in Cumberland Terraces. The estimated cost of this was a further £300,000 if all flat owners agreed to change them. It then emerged that the replacement door chosen by the Government had actually failed the water test even though there was an option to choose a door that had passed the test. This raised eyebrows at the time given that the decision for changing the doors in the first place was because the Government were concerned that they may deteriorate too quickly if exposed to the elements!
Complaints have reached the Opposition regarding the fact that the top floor apartments have no outside cover to provide shelter from the rain. Moreover, the top three floors have “chipwood” or wooden floors on which it is recommended that ceramic tiles are not laid.
Commenting on the matter, Shadow Minister for Housing Charles Bruzon said:
“Given that the Government have boasted that they had closely supervised the quality of the construction in these developments, they must take the political responsibility for the problems that continue to emerge. It is quite incredible that windows and doors have had to be changed with people living inside the flats when these problems should have been identified and resolved beforehand as a result of the close supervision which we were told had taken place.”
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