As the Grand continues to crumble after years of well-documented neglect, the residents, some in their 90s, await with mounting fear the next set of bills for maintenance. In a well-managed building, these bills should consist only of routine maintenance, but not at the Grand. Huge bills for major repairs are in the pipeline thanks to years of reported neglect and mismanagement.
Vital repairs have been repeatedly put off because of the huge and longstanding hole in the maintenance fund. Putting off vital repairs means the costs go up — in this case from around £300,000 to £500,000 thanks to this funding hole. A quick glance around the building shows iron down pipes with huge holes, balconies with render falling onto walkways below, bits of ornamental coving held together with expanding foam, window frames rotting away, the once beautiful balustrading as rotten as a thirty year old Alfa Romeo. Who knows the condition of the internal wiring and drainage? What about the invisible steel structure which once made this building such a talking point a century ago?
Beneath the public posturing of Hallam Estates Ltd and the licensee of the Grand (Mr & Mrs Stainer), away from the braggadocio with characterises every utterance from ownership and management of the Grand, there is a harsh and inescapable truth.
This building which should reflect all that’s best about the new Folkestone is in unsafe hands in our honest opinion. Don’t believe us, believe the First-Tier Tribunal Property Chamber when in 2014, it was adjudicating over the attempt of residents to replace the old and failed management. The Court heard incontrovertible evidence as to the years of neglect and the impact of the freeholder refusing to hand over the funds needed to repair the building.
We quote Judge Norman who refers to:
“The continuing theme of the Respondent [Hallam Estates Limited] and Mr. and/or Mrs.Stainer to provide the funds which they are obliged to provide.”
He states categorically:
“Mr. and /or Mrs. Stainer are obliged to contribute to the maintenance fund”.
He finally quotes Mr.Roddy Baker formerly of Cluttons, now of Fell Reynolds, the former managing agent of the Grand who said:
“He could have managed the building properly if he had had the funds.”
That was 2014. What’s changed in 2016? Nothing. The new managing agents have not seen a penny from the freeholder, not a penny from the 17 holiday flats which are legally obliged to pay, not a penny from the commercial enterprises within the Grand.
Amazingly with all this going on and despite all this history of neglect, in 2014, Shepway Council gave planning permission for seven new apartments carved out of the unused basement area on the west side. They ignored well-argued opposition from many residents. They ignored concerns over the impact on an already overstrained drainage system. They ignored the fact that the existing holiday lets pay nothing to maintain the building.
Let’s hope that Hallam Estates Ltd and the Licensee Mr & Mrs.Stainer pays their debts to the Grand, and fulfils all their obligations before spending a penny on this project. It would be the grossest of injustices for Hallam Estates Ltd and the licensee Mr & Mrs.Stainer to seek to further enrich himself at the expense of his leaseholders.