Cladding replacement ‘could take another five years’

Cladding replacement ‘could take another five years’

THE CURRENT rate of removal and replacement for the 354 high rises with combustible cladding is only ‘six a month’, according to government figures.

Last month, the latest government statistics on high rise buildings clad with combustible materials - from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) - showed that hundreds of high rise blocks still have aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding, including council and privately owned high rise residential buildings, student accommodation, hotels, a school and healthcare buildings.

In total, 361 high rise residential and public buildings were said at that time to have ACM systems in place, despite the combustible materials ban announced last November, which was implemented via the Building (Amendment) Regulations 2018 and which came into force on 21 December 2018 with a two month transitional period. The ban however does not apply to existing buildings where no building work is being carried out

The Guardian has now reported on the latest release from the government, which has reported that work on the buildings nationwide is ‘only being finished at [a] rate of six a month’, the news outlet pointing out that progress ‘is so slow it will take another five years to complete at current rates’. In January, only one building saw work begin, with only 41 of 158 social housing high rises having had cladding replaced.

Owners of 173 private towers ‘have been far slower to act and have largely ignored’ the government’s ‘threat’s to intervene unless the owners pay for the work, with only 10 having seen work completed so far, and a series of buildings’ leaseholders in dispute with freeholders over costs. Additionally, none of the 31 high rise hotels with combustible cladding have had the materials removed and replaced, while 69 private blocks have no remediation plans in place.

The ‘slow progress’ has infuriated the bereaved and survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, with Grenfell United chair Natasha Elcock stating it was a ‘travesty’ that the works had not been completed, adding: ‘How much longer do we have to keep lobbying and talking about this? We want change, and change will mean making people safe in their homes. The fear is that more lives could be lost. I don’t ever want to wake up in the morning and find out a second Grenfell has happened.’

Shadow housing minister Sarah Jones stated: ‘Yet again we are faced with the reality of this government’s reckless approach to fire safety in tower blocks. Almost two years on from the Grenfell tragedy, more than eight out of 10 blocks with deadly Grenfell-style cladding are still draped in it. The news today that families of Grenfell victims must wait until 2021 for justice simply adds to the feeling that focus has slipped from this crucial issue.’