Sheffield cladding victim's 'disbelief' at Boris Johnson as he repeats claim she has 'unnecessary anxiety'

A Yorkshire cladding scandal campaigner said she has been left in “shock and disbelief” after Boris Johnson repeated claims she had “unnecessary anxiety” about the safety of where she lives.

The case of Jenni Garratt, who is a leaseholder in a flat in the Wicker Riverside in Sheffield, was raised at Prime Minister’s Questions by her MP Paul Blomfield, who represents Sheffield Central.

Mr Blomfield asked Mr Johnson to meet with Ms Garratt to understand her concerns after the Prime Minister was asked about her case in a recent ITV interview and said she had “a frankly unnecessary sense of anxiety”.

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The Labour MP said: “Jenni is a victim of the cladding scandal. Just before last Christmas, her building was evacuated because of safety concerns. She has been forced to pay £5,000 for a waking watch and alarms. She has to find £1,200 a year for car parking she can no longer access. The work needed to make her building safe is being blocked by the actions of her freeholder. She does not know the costs she will face, but they are estimated at thousands of pounds.”

Jenni Garratt outside the Wicker Riverside building where she lives. Picture: Dean Atkins

Mr Johnson said in response: “I have every sympathy, but what I think is unfair is that people such as her are placed in a position of unnecessary anxiety about their homes when they should be reassured.

“I sympathise deeply with people who have to pay for waking watches and other such things. I think it is absurd. But what people should be doing is making sure that we do not unnecessarily undermine the confidence of the market and of people in these homes, because they are not unsafe. Many millions of homes are not unsafe - and the Honourable Gentleman should have the courage to say so.”

Ms Garratt, who is part of the Sheffield Cladding Action Group, that she was stunned by the Prime Minister’s response and that he appeared not to know the facts of the matter.

The government has previously announced funding towards the cost of removing unsafe cladding but it has been widely criticised as the cost of crucial safety measures is still left with many leaseholders. Many are unable to move out of their properties as safety issues means prospective buyers would be unable to get mortgages.

In the flats where Ms Garratt lives, residents had to pay for several months towards a costly ‘waking watch’ patrol - a system which has become more prevalent after the Grenfell fire and sees individuals employed to ensure there are no fires happening in blocks of flats. Ms Garratt said that has now been replaced with a cheaper 'evacuation management' system.

In May this year, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service issued a restriction notice for Wicker Riverside on the grounds that there was insufficient fire resisting separation between the car park and the rest of the building and part of the car park ceiling is also lined with a combustible insulation.

Ms Garrett said the building's car park has been closed since then and she has to pay £83 a month to leave her vehicle in a nearby car park.

In June, the fire service served an enforcement notice after finding the building's Fire Safety Risk Assessment was not suitable and sufficient.

Ms Garratt said: “The thing that struck me is he was saying Paul Blomfield should have the courage to say my building is safe. That just shows he has no idea about what is going on with this crisis across the country.

“I would encourage him to speak to South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue to see what they say about whether it is safe.”

She added she was unimpressed with other comments by the Prime Minister expressing sympathy over the cost of the waking watch.

“To be completely honest, I’m in shock. I wasn’t expecting a groundbreaking response because of the way the Government has been responding but I couldn’t believe there wasn’t any form of apology or explanation.

“He then said the situation was absurd and he deeply sympathises with me but he is the Prime Minister - he is the one person who can actually make a difference.

“My feeling is shock and disbelief.”

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