Herts Cladiators take part in London rally against 'terrible injustice'

Sophie Bichener, who lives in Stevenage's Vista Tower, spoke at the leaseholders rally

Sophie Bichener, who lives in Stevenage's Vista Tower, spoke at the leaseholders rally in Parliament Square - Credit: Courtesy of Sophie Bichener

Leaseholders from Stevenage and surrounding areas descended onto Parliament Square yesterday in a rally against dangerous cladding and the hefty cost that has come with it. 

The rally attracted residents from across the country who have been footing the bill for waking watchers and maintenance fees. 

Sophie Bichener - who lives in Stevenage's Vista Tower and set up the Hertfordshire Cladiators group - gave a speech at the event.

Stephen McPartland and Sophie Bichener at the Cladiators rally in Parliament Square

Stephen McPartland and Sophie Bichener at the Cladiators rally in Parliament Square - Credit: Courtesy of Sophie Bichener

She told the Comet: "There was a lot of people there and I think we got the message across.

"We got a lot of support from MPs. With Michael Gove coming in as Secretary of State of Housing, we have the best chance of something happening now, we are hoping he will come and review what's happened so far, and telling the government that the solution has not gone far enough.

"We're hoping having someone new in the job will make a real difference. 


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"Stephen McPartland caught up with Herts leaseholders before he spoke on stage, he's been fantastic. He couldn't have stood in front of a more engaged audience.

"Everyone knows he's been championing leaseholders across the country, not just in Stevenage. It's great to have his continued support. It can't be easy to go against your own party."

Cladiators rally

People living in unsafe homes across the country turned out for the rally in Parliament Square - Credit: Sophie Bichener

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Vista Tower in Southgate was converted into flats in 2016. After Grenfell saw safety regulations tightened, Inspired Property Management ordered tests on Vista Tower, which found “non-compliant” Expanded Polystyrene Insulation (EPS) and foam insulation in the walls.

End Our Cladding Scandal rally in Parliament Square

End Our Cladding Scandal rally in Parliament Square - Credit: Courtesy of Sophie Bichener

Since then, leaseholders have feared being made bankrupt due to the mounting costs of waking watch at £12,000 a month.

"We haven't had much movement here," Sophie said. "We're still waiting on our building safety fund allocation. We don't know when remediation works will happen.

"I think it's good that we can use Vista Tower as a case study - we have received no funding and I think when funding does come it won't be enough."

Stephen McParland cladding rally

MP for Stevenage Stephen McPartland spoke at the leaseholders rally - Credit: Courtesy of Stephen McPartland

Stephen McPartland MP said: “It was an amazing turnout, with so much passion and enthusiasm from leaseholders.

"I am proud to be helping them fight this terrible injustice and trying to make everyone aware that leaseholders do not have the funds to make our buildings safe.

"The government created the market failure and it is our responsibility to step in, provide a safety net and make those responsible to pay.

"This is what my new amendments to the Building Safety Bill do and I look forward to meeting the new Secretary of State to make more progress in protecting leaseholders.”  

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