Red tape madness that says mansion is not fit for refugees: Famed architect Mike Rundell is told to ‘upgrade’ his multi-million pound house to make it fit for Ukrainian family to live in
- Architect Mike Rundell told he will need to ‘upgrade’ multi-million pound house
- The south London property has five bedrooms, and onyx-clad bathrooms
- The house also features wallpaper designed by renowned artist Damien Hirst
- But it is still not enough to tick all the boxes for the Homes for Ukraine scheme
- Mr Rundell accused Home Office of putting applicants off joining the scheme
He has designed homes for stars including Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Stella McCartney.
But architect Mike Rundell has been told he will need to ‘upgrade’ his multi-million pound house to make it fit for Ukrainian refugees.
The 62-year-old’s art deco villa in Herne Hill, south London, has five bedrooms, landscaped gardens and stunning onyx-clad bathrooms.
The Grade II listed three-storey property also features wallpaper designed by renowned artist Mr Hirst, a wraparound shower and a grand entrance hallway with a solid nickel handrail.
But even that is not enough to tick all the boxes of the Government’s shambolic Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Architect Mike Rundell has been told he will need to ‘upgrade’ his multi-million pound house in Herne Hill, south London, to make it fit for Ukrainian refugees
The art deco villa has five bedrooms, landscaped gardens and stunning onyx-clad bathrooms
The Grade II listed three-storey property also features wallpaper designed by renowned artist Damien Hirst, a wraparound shower and a grand entrance hallway with a solid nickel handrail. But officials said Mr Rundell needed to ‘upgrade’ his home
Mr Rundell, a father of four, accused the Home Office of sending people down a ‘dark rabbit hole’ in the hope of putting applicants off.
He said: ‘These are administrative hurdles which I believe have been set up because somebody somewhere said “Don’t make this too easy”. We need a high enough barrier to jump over that will keep the flood of refugees down. I think that’s outrageous but I will jump over them.’
Mr Rundell applied to host Masha Chykina, 42, and her three children – Sofia, 13, Ivan, 11, and Viacheslav, ten – when the scheme launched more than three weeks ago.
The family fled their home near Kyiv via Poland and are currently among 18 refugees sleeping on the floor of a church in Cologne, Germany, while their father Dima stays behind to aid the war effort.
‘Being told actually your house may not be good enough made me think that this is really ridiculous,’ Mr Rundell said.
‘This is a family that is sleeping on the floor when they could be in a comfortable, spacious house with a perfect garden for children to play in.
‘It is annoying that this kind of bureaucracy is preventing them from being here. This whole system is getting gummed up by administration, which is not helpful for anyone.
‘It’s a kind of madness to an extent… in as much as a family would be so happy to come to somewhere they were not sleeping 18 to a floor or not to be shelled.’
Mr Rundell applied to host Masha Chykina, 42, and her three children – Sofia, 13, Ivan, 11, and Viacheslav, ten (pictured together) – when the scheme launched more than three weeks ago
Mr Rundell pictured outside his Herne Hill home where he plans to house a Ukrainian family fleeing the war
Mr Rundell received a call on Thursday from Lambeth Council informing him his 1930s home will need to be inspected and he will be given a list of upgrades.
‘I was told a person will come around and let me know what upgrades I need to make to meet the requirements,’ he added.
‘He specifically said I needed lockable windows, closable doors, extra fire alarms on each floor and a “Gas Safe” certificate.
‘When I explained that the bedroom windows could be closed but not locked, that there was a smoke alarm on the ground floor but not on other floors and that I had never knowingly been issued with a Gas Safe certificate, he went a bit quiet.
‘He said that the inspectors could advise me what upgrades would be required to prepare my house to reach a suitable standard.
‘It feels a bit petty – there are no legal requirements to live in a house. I have lived in it myself for 15 years without requiring these things. It’s totally safe for my children and they are not legal requirements.’
Mr Rundell continued: ‘The prescriptive list of requirements goes beyond what is required for my kids to live in my home.
‘This is an emergency, the family is desperate to get somewhere where they can start to live a normal life again, and a more flexible and less bureaucratic approach is simply essential.’ As Mr Rundell’s property is on three floors, he was told each one needs a fire alarm.
Mr Rundell received a call on Thursday from Lambeth Council informing him his 1930s home will need to be inspected and he will be given a list of upgrades
Mr Rundell, a father of four, accused the Home Office of sending people down a ‘dark rabbit hole’ in the hope of putting applicants off. Pictured: Mr Rundell in one of the rooms he plans to make available for refugees
Mr Rundell (pictured in another bedroom he plans to make available for refugees) has designed homes for stars including Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Stella McCartney
He hastily fitted the extra alarms over the weekend ahead of the inspection, which was scheduled for Monday, but no one turned up.
‘The thing that makes me most angry is the speed of response. Maybe more people should have been employed to roll this out,’ he said. The family would be living with Mr Rundell, his partner and his 15-year-old daughter Saskia.
He is hoping to host them in two bedrooms after his 21-year-old daughter Saffron offered to stay at university so they could have her room, which comes with a terrace and an en-suite.
Mr Rundell, who lived in Russia for eight years and whose children are half-Russian, questioned why the family need to undergo background checks, adding: ‘This is a mother with kids, what are they worried about? They would get a tourist visa no problem.’
He said he wanted to ‘show not all Russians support this war’.
Of the delays, he added: ‘The frustrating thing is the clear contrast between the approach shown by the rest of the EU and the approach shown by the UK.
‘The UK basically does not want to help refugees, ever.
‘If there was ever a shining example of incompetence, administrative overkill driven by an utter lack of empathy beyond what is necessary to appease public opinion, it could not have been dreamt up.’ The Mail contacted Lambeth Council for comment last night.
A Government spokesman said: ‘The British public are being incredibly generous by opening their homes to thousands of Ukrainians fleeing a devastating conflict, but it is right that we make sure accommodation is safe and appropriate by asking local authorities to visit once visa applications are submitted.’
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