Cladding removal paused during COVID-19 lockdown
THE REMOVAL works at the New Capital Quay (NCQ) development have been stopped due to the pandemic and UK wide lockdown, with other similar nationwide projects set to be paused as well.
In 2018 residents whose flats were found to have ‘multiple’ fire safety issues were concerned they would have to pay an estimated £20m to £40m bill, or £20,000 to £40,000 per flat, to resolve issues and remove combustible aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding. Developers Galliard Homes planned to sue the National House Building Council (NHBC) over payment, while one resident discovered her flat’s value had fallen from £475,000 to £50,000.
It later transpired that government body Homes England ‘agreed to virtually wipe out’ her loan, while residents were also considering legal action against Galliard over combustible cladding replacement costs. Then, local councillor Mehboob Khan called for the government to fund the removal of the cladding, while resident Nerisa Ahmed considered suing government agency Target HCA, which administers the help to buy scheme that she used to help buy her flat.
The NHBC then intervened that July to pay for removing and replacing combustible cladding, announcing removal plans for the 11 blocks in January 2019. This would see all 2,000 residents of 992 flats – 334 of which are social housing – have ACM cladding replaced. Most recently last June, a group claim was taken up by 58 leaseholders against Galliard, alleging that ‘as a result of fire-safety defects’ including the cladding, their flats ‘were not constructed in accordance with building regulations and are not fit for habitation’.
While work had started to remove the cladding, one block – Admirals Tower – was expected to ‘not be finished until August 2021’. Inside Housing has now reported that the work to remove the cladding has been ‘halted’ due to the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent UK wide lockdown, with residents contacted by managing agent PMM Ltd to ‘inform them that the cladding removal works would halt due to the outbreak’.
Residents previously stated that Galliard Homes’ delay in submitting a planning application for the work ‘delayed the start’, with the project to replace cladding project wide at the 11 block, 1,000 flat development ‘set to take almost six years’ even before this delay. PMM’s letter read: ‘Further to the prime minister’s announcement of new measures yesterday evening, the decision has been made to temporarily halt all cladding works at [NCQ].
‘This morning we will facilitate sub-contractors access to collect their tools, equipment and personal belongings. The teams will work to ensure NCQ is safely weathered, isolated, shut/locked down while the restrictions are in place. It is with regret that we have to put works on hold, however we must safeguard the health of those that reside at the scheme along with those that work on the project. The waking watch will continue to be present at the scheme to ensure residents safety is maintained.’
Galliard Homes meanwhile was ‘among the firms’ in construction to ‘reveal they were closing sites this morning’, with chief executive Don O’Sullivan stating: ‘We are a London business and we are taking this action in support of our world class superheroes in the NHS, as they take on the fight of their lives to keep us safe. This should be the priority for all of us today.’
The news outlet pointed out in turn that the pause at NCQ ‘will raise fears that other sites will also delay as the country goes into lockdown’, with 132 sites ‘underway’ with removing ACM including 75 social housing sites and 39 private sector developments, as well as 12 student blocks, four hotels and two public buildings – another 181 ‘have not yet started’. An ‘as-yet-unknown’ number of buildings will also require other combustible cladding materials removed, such as timber and high pressure laminate.