UK Government Fund Created to Remove Unsafe Cladding from Private Tower Blocks

Many developers and landlords have not paid for the removal of unsafe cladding nearly two years after 72 people died in the Grenfell Tower fire.

London, United Kingdom 14 May 2019

Ministers have announced a £200 million (US$258 million) fund to remove combustible cladding from the UK’s private tower blocks and criticized “reckless building owners” for refusing to foot the bill.

In a statement, housing secretary James Brokenshire criticized the “delaying tactics” of developers and landlords who have not paid for the removal of unsafe cladding, nearly two years after 72 people died in the Grenfell Tower fire.

The fund will go towards removing the aluminum composite material (ACM) cladding from 170 privately owned high-rise buildings where the owners have failed to do so. Latest figures show that 166 private buildings are yet to start works on removing and replacing ACM cladding, compared to 23 in the social sector.

“Too many owners were continuing to pass on the costs of removal and replacement to leaseholders.”

Prime minister Theresa May said too many owners were “continuing to pass on the costs of removal and replacement to leaseholders.”She added: “It is of paramount importance that everybody is able to feel and be safe in their homes. That’s why we asked building owners in the private sector to take action and make sure appropriate safety measures were in place.”

The government said that building owners would have three months to access the new fund, and it would consider further action against those who fail to remediate.

The move follows a huge campaigning effort by The UK Cladding Action Group (UKCAG), a coalition of private leaseholders which has fought to persuade developers to fund the cost of cladding removal. Although the group has stated that, while the fund would be a “relief” for thousands trapped in buildings covered with ACM, it also introduced a “cladding lottery,” since the funding would not pay for the removal of other types of panels.

“Fire does not distinguish between the different types of failed cladding,” the group said. “This inadequate response will be looked back on in in shame when the next Grenfell tragedy occurs.”

Recently London’s fire chief had called on the government to introduce tougher building regulations without further delay. London Fire Brigade commissioner Dany Cotton said advice about sprinklers had been ignored and developers must now be required to include them in designs.

“For too long our fire-safety advice on sprinklers has been ignored,” she said, adding: “Developers must be required to include sprinklers in building design, and especially in purpose-built residential blocks and homes where vulnerable people live.”

Grenfell United, a group of survivors and the bereaved, said it offered hope to people feeling at risk at home. “This result is a testament to residents themselves, in social and private blocks, who refused to be ignored,” the group said. “The truth is we should never have had to fight for it.”

Labour shadow housing secretary John Healey welcomed the decision but said it was “astonishing” that it had taken ministers almost two years to act. He added: “The government must now back the further steps Labour has been calling for: toughen the sanctions to get this work done and set a deadline to make all blocks safe.”

For more on this story go to Architects’ Journal.

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