Pay up to fix the dangerous cladding crisis, Gove tells developers

Published by Scott Challinor on January 11th 2022, 1:01am

Levelling Up, Housing and Communities secretary Michael Gove has told developers that they must pay to fix the cladding crisis where they have caused it and has issued the deadline of early March for them to agree a fully costed plan with the government.

To date, government funding has not been provided for the removal of unsafe cladding on residential blocks of 11-18 metres in height. This has seen developers pass the costs onto residents through excessive service charges.

While some companies have sought to protect residents by covering the cost themselves, Gove has said in a letter to the industry that others have not “shouldered their responsibilities” and is ordering the offending firms to pay.

In the letter, Gove warned that by early March, businesses must provide details as to how they plan to deal with unsafe cladding on buildings of 11-18 metres. The full cost of fixing the issue is estimated to stand at around £4 billion, with Gove asking industry to cover the entire amount.

The Levelling Up secretary also called on the sector to undertake all necessary remediation of buildings over 11 metres that they have played a role in developing as soon as possible - prioritising those most at risk - and provide comprehensive information on all buildings over 11 metres which have historic safety defects and which they have contributed to building over the last 30 years.

Dialogue between government and the sector will commence with a roundtable discussion between ministers, representatives of the largest residential developers and trade bodies. Leaseholders and individuals affected by the Grenfell Tower disaster will also be invited to take part in the discussions at appropriate times.

Gove’s letter reads: “Our home should be a source of security and pride. For too many of the people living in properties your industry has built in recent years, their home has become a source of misery. This must change.

“It is neither fair nor decent that innocent leaseholders, many of whom have worked hard and made sacrifices to get a foot on the housing ladder, should be landed with bills they cannot afford to fix problems they did not cause.

“Government has accepted its share of responsibility and made significant financial provision through its ACM remediation programme and the Building Safety Fund. Some developers have already done the right thing and funded remedial works and I commend them for those actions. But too many others have failed to live up to their responsibilities.”

Should businesses refuse to take responsibility, Gove has said that the government will use various mechanisms to make them pay up, including restricting access to government funding and future procurements for the non-compliant.

While acknowledging that the vast majority of 11-18 metre buildings are safe thanks to other fire safety measures having been installed - including some that do have combustible cladding - the government has warned that there are several residential buildings where there is no alternative but for unsafe cladding to be removed.

In a statement to the House of Commons on Monday, Gove also announced a raft of measures to protect leaseholders that he said were trapped in unsellable homes with excessive costs to remove unsafe cladding.

The plans include new protections for leaseholders living in their own flats and statutory protections for leaseholders in an amended Building Safety Bill. An additional £27 million is also being invested into kitting out buildings with more fire alarms.

Meanwhile, building assessments are to be reformed so that buildings that are safe are not being declared unsafe due to outdated and misinterpreted advice.

A new team is to be formed to pursue and expose non-compliant companies and force them to fix cladding on the buildings they built, with the government to open the next phase of its Building Safety Fund to hasten the removal of flammable cladding.

Gove informed MPs: “More than four years after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the system is broken. Leaseholders are trapped, unable to sell their homes and facing vast bills. But the developers and cladding companies who caused the problem are dodging accountability and have made vast profits during the pandemic whilst hard working families have struggled.

“From today, we are bringing this scandal to an end – protecting leaseholders and making industry pay. We will scrap proposals for loans and long-term debt for leaseholders in medium-rise buildings and give a guarantee that no leaseholder living in their own flat will pay a penny to fix dangerous cladding.

“Working with members of both Houses, we will look to bring a raft of leaseholder protections into law through our Building Safety Bill. We will restore much needed common sense on building safety assessments, ending the practice of too many buildings being declared unsafe.”

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Authored By

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
January 11th 2022, 1:01am

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