Jenni has lost 15k so far. So why is nobody being held responsible?
On Wicker Riverside and the cladding crisis
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to Thursday’s Tribune.
On 14 June 2017, 72 people died in the Grenfell Tower fire, making it the worst residential fire in the UK since World War II. But even now, more than six years later, the consequences of that terrible event are still being felt in Sheffield. In the aftermath of the fire, buildings up and down the country were also found to have flammable cladding, as well as a litany of other fire safety problems. One of those was Wicker Riverside in Sheffield city centre, whose residents have been forced to pay tens of thousands of pounds over the last three years to address the problems. Today, as remediation work finally gets underway at the building, we ask — is anyone ever going to be held responsible for the UK cladding scandal?
Editor’s note: We have some more exciting news! After two years of relying purely on word of mouth and social media advertising, The Tribune is to start in-person flyering. Myself and our intern Rachel Flynn will be at Quayside Market this Saturday, followed by Tudor Square on Thursday, 14 September and Pollen Market on Sunday, 17 September. If you see us around please do say hello and we’ll even give you a few flyers so you can share them with friends and family!
🚑 A grieving Sheffield family are taking the Yorkshire Ambulance Service to court after a man suffering from a heart attack waited nearly an hour for an ambulance and later died in hospital. An inquest for Mark Taylor, a 62-year-old from Shiregreen, heard his wife’s call for help should have been marked as a top priority but was mistakenly deemed less serious. Yorkshire Ambulance Service told the inquest it was under “extreme pressure that day,” with 175 other patients waiting for an ambulance at the same time as Mr Taylor.
🌳 Plans to build a car park on two green fields at Park Hill flats have been scaled back — but residents have vowed continue their campaign. As part of Phase 4 of the building’s renovation, developer Urban Splash had proposed to turn two green fields at the complex into a car park. However, after their original plans met stiff opposition from residents, they are now proposing to save one of the fields. Residents from the Save Our Spaces campaign group welcomed some aspects of the new plan but say the new proposals are still unacceptable.
🏗️ A developer planning to build 550 homes on the former site of the Cannon Brewery in Neepsend has asked for £11m of public money to help “de-risk” the scheme, by paying for the “extensive demolition and remediation of the site”. The South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority looks set to sign off on the payment next week, claiming “the overall justification for public support is clear”. Developer Capital & Centric plans to spend £143m in total regenerating the site, which has had limited use since the brewery closed in 1999.
Things to do
🖼 Tomorrow evening the Archer Project opens “Wish You Were Here”, a photography exhibition raising awareness about the brutal life of those sleeping rough. The exhibition, which includes new work by Sheffield artist Conor Rogers, is taking place at Sheffield Cathedral and will tell the stories of some of those who have ended up sleeping on the city’s streets. If you can’t catch it tomorrow, you have until 22nd September to check it out.
🏰 This year’s Castlegate Festival begins this weekend, bringing nine days of cultural activities to Sheffield’s historic heart. This weekend the Quayside Market takes place at Victoria Quays on Saturday, 9 September at the same time as a street party on Exchange Street. A display of plaques celebrating the famous Sheffielders who have lived in the area will take place throughout September (our piece on circus master Pablo Fanque is here).
🎸 Also on Friday, 8 September, post-punk legends Public Image Limited return to The Leadmill on their current world tour. The Sex Pistols’ John Lydon-fronted band released their first new music in eight years earlier this year, and their latest material has received largely positive reviews so far. Expect songs like Hawaii from their new album End Of The World, as well as classics like Rise and Public Image. Tickets are £32.50 and doors open at 7.30pm.
Jenni has lost 15k so far. So why is nobody being held responsible?
If you walk down the north bank of the River Don in the city centre, just the other side of Blonk Street bridge, you’ll see a building swathed in a blue tarpaulin. Beneath the translucent covering, a dozen or so workers scurry around on scaffolding. Poles are picked up in one place, deposited in another. The workers are replacing the building’s insulation, a layer of material that sits underneath the building’s external cladding (something which sets it apart from Grenfell Tower, where the cladding itself was the flammable material). They started on the building in June and have told residents it will take 52 weeks — yes, an entire year — to fix the problem.
The Wicker Riverside building was completed back in 2007, and for the first 13 years of its life was a slightly odd-looking if otherwise unremarkable residential building. But ever since 72 people died in the devastating Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017, the flats have become the battleground for a fight between the government, the housebuilding industry and ordinary homeowners — the cost of which runs into millions of pounds.
The saga has now been raging on for over three years. Back in December 2020, residents from 35 flats on the upper floors of the 10-storey building were evacuated with just weeks to go before Christmas. That evacuation only lasted a few weeks, but it marked the start of an issue that is still rumbling on to this day. More importantly, it’s a story which has also left residents with bills totalling thousands of pounds.
As I walk around the site, a man leaving the building tells me the scaffolding has been up for around three months, and for much of that time has completely covered his balcony, meaning they can barely see out. But as a relatively new resident — and a renter — he’s not fully aware of the building’s backstory. “We were told about it when I started renting but I know some people have lost a lot of money,” he tells me. “Go to town on them.”
Exactly who I would “go to town on” isn’t clear, however, although such is the Byzantine nature of the building’s history you can forgive the man for not knowing this. The building is currently owned by a company called Nine Group, a Watford-based firm which invests in apartment blocks and hotels. However, it was built in 2007 by a completely different company — a Greater Manchester-based developer called Artisan Wicker Riverside, which itself was dissolved in 2014. It was designed by an architectural practice called Aedas (which later split from its parent company to rebrand as AHR Architects), and built by yet another. So who’s to blame for the cladding issues that have been identified since Grenfell?