Cladding remediation: Progress on improving building safety needs to move faster

The government has been criticised for taking far too long to remove all flammable cladding from residential buildings.

The government says it “has been working tirelessly” with councils to remove unsafe cladding, but Ed Mead, co-founder and director at Viewber, has condemned the government’s action on removing cladding as inadequate.

Mead has called on the government to requisition any building that the owner will not make safe by investing the funds required to so.

“Estimates to fix everything [relating to flammable cladding] are of the order of £4.4bn,” said Mead. “This is paltry compared to the tens of billions being thrown at Covid and sorting the issue will guarantee work for years.”

More than three years have now passed since the Grenfell Tower crisis in June 2017, and progress on replacing dangerous, flammable cladding systems on high-risk residential buildings has been painfully slow.

Last year, then Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said he expected the removal of all unsafe cladding by June 2020, but thousands of homes are still covered in aluminium composite material (ACM) deemed to be dangerous.

According to the latest figures from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), there are 300 buildings with ACM cladding systems that still needed to be remediated.

To add, there are another 1,700 high-rise buildings with other forms of combustible cladding systems which need replacing.

Some reports suggest that more than 23,000 homes in the UK are still covered in Grenfell-style cladding, which is a “scandal”, according to Mead.

The government published its response to the House of Commons, Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s (HCLG) report on cladding remediation last month, with all residential blocks over 18 metres required to have a fire safety assessment on cladding, but a lack of suitably qualified professionals to carry out these surveys appears to be seriously hampering the process.

Many flat owners remain in limbo, unable to sell or even remortgate until an External Fire Wall Review (EWS1) has been commissioned, but that can only be completed by a small number of individuals.

Delays are leaving flat owners unable to sell their property or remortgage to avoid existing mortgage lending reverting to more expensive standard variable rate products, which is why speedy implementation now desperately needed.

Mead believes that “the inability of mortgage companies to get an EWS1 form attesting to the safety of the cladding” is quite frankly unacceptable.

“Perhaps, at the same time they announce a mitigation plan, they offer an indemnity to cover this issue off,” he said.

A number of flat owners, including those in perfectly safe buildings, have been left out of pocket or stuck in a property that is no longer suitable for them, thus potentially reducing the level of housing stock that is on the market.

“I don’t have a universal panacea to sort this but pressure needs to build – it’ll affect us all,” Mead added.

 

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