An iconic Bradford apartment building is being “left to rot” just eight years after it was described as a flagship regeneration project for the city, according to a group of the property’s leaseholders.
The Gatehaus, off Leeds Road in Little Germany, was officially unveiled in 2006 and is now managed by the Cheshire-based property firm, Braemar Estates.
Now, some members of the Gatehaus Owners Association (GOA), all of whom own or lease apartments on the £22 million development, claim the site has fallen into such a state of disrepair that it can no longer attract prospective tenants.
They also claim the building contains serious health and safety risks.
This has been disputed by the firm, which states the building had construction issues when they inherited it, along with a “chronic service charge deficit.”
Jamil Ashraf, a spokesman for the GOA, said: “This is not just about how bad the building looks, there are real health and safety risks for tenants. There is just not enough being done about the problems here. We do a lot of work to try and get the building back up to scratch, but there are huge issues that need sorting out.
“We pay a lot of money in annual fees, but the service is not being provided. We invested into Bradford to improve the city, but this building is just being destroyed. Problems aren’t fixed, they just paper over the cracks.”
The GOA submitted two reports to Braemars, one in November 2012 and the other in December last year, complaining that members were not satisfied with the way the building was managed.
Concerns were highlighted over alleged fire safety breaches and exposed electrical wiring, damage to the building’s interior structure, and flooding and security problems in the building’s basement car park.
“Some of the supposed construction work has been going on for over two years now, so how are we supposed to sell the building to prospective tenants?” said Mr Ashraf. “We do all we can to keep the apartments immaculate inside, but the rest of the building is just being left to rot.
“A lot of Bradford landlords made an investment in this building, but with the fees we have to pay, owners are now struggling and scraping through. This building is as bad as anywhere I’ve seen in the city.”
When the Telegraph & Argus visited the Gatehaus, landlords highlighted holes and large areas of damp in stairwells and corridors, mould spores on walls, water leaking from the courtyard area into the basement car park and a disabled lift that had been demolished but not rebuilt.
There was also evidence of a fire escape that had been boarded up, which is said to have prompted a fire safety inspection in January.
The Gatehaus was unveiled in 2006, and by the time it officially opened to residents in April the following year, all 141 apartments had been sold. In 2008, the complex, built to complement the “striking architecture” of the Little Germany conservation area, won a hat-trick of design awards, including Bradford district Building of the Year.
The development, part of a £3 billion urban regeneration scheme for Bradford, was owned by Asquith Properties until the firm went into administration in September 2008, leaving some investors out of pocket on two year rental agreements and certain properties “uninhabitable” due to flood damage. Braemar Estates became managing agents of the Gatehaus in May 2012, and members of the GOA currently pay around £1,800 as a basic annual service charge to the company, rising to more than £3,000 with a car parking space.
This price has remained fixed despite a stark drop in the value of the properties, with a one-bedroomed apartment put on the market for £75,000 in February 2012, still available two years on at £54,950, a reduction of more than £20,000.
Members of the GOA who bought two-bedroom apartments at prices between £140,000 and £160,000 in 2006, claim that their value has dropped “by at least half”, with a two-bed property in the complex currently available to rent for just £400 per month.
In response to concerns, Braemar Estates admitted to the GOA that the building is in an “appalling” state, attributing the problems to a “chronic service charge deficit and downward spiral, caused by historic non-payment of service charges by numerous owners.”
However, the company states it is committed to addressing all of the issues and expects to make “measurable improvements to the look and feel of the building.”
Councillor Adrian Naylor (Ind, Craven), executive member for regeneration in the Tory-led Bradford Council during 2008-9, said it was up to the management company to make Gatehaus an attractive proposition for tenants. “Now should be an ideal time to be capitalising on city centre projects, and I can’t understand why the owners wouldn’t want to maximise this investment opportunity,” he said.
Councillor Andrew Mallinson, (Con, Craven), Coun Naylor’s predecessor for regeneration during 2007-8, said: “It’s very sad to see this building left to decline to such a condition that tenants can’t be attracted. Bradford needs to evolve and look appealing, and this issue raises a serious concern about city centre regeneration.”
Bradford Council leader Councillor David Green did not wish to comment, saying the issue was a private matter between the landlords and the company