Housing Secretary warns building owners about cladding costs

Housing Secretary warns building owners about cladding costs

JAMES BROKENSHIRE told parliament that he has ‘not ruled anything out’ for private sector building owners ‘that refuse to meet the costs’ of replacing cladding.

Construction News reported on Mr Brokenshire’s statement to the House of Commons, in which he also noted there was a ‘growing sense of doing the right thing’ in regards to building owners ‘not passing re-cladding costs on to leaseholders’. Recently, the issue was illuminated by original developer of Croydon site Citiscape – Barratt Homes – stepping in to fund cladding replacement, after a tribunal had found against tenants, who might have had to pay £31,000 each to replace the flammable cladding.

Mr Brokenshire added: ‘I have met a number of building owners directly to set out our expectations. The industry is considering how to ensure that those obligations are not passed on to leaseholders, but there is a growing sense of doing the right thing. It is notable that more building owners have determined to meet the costs themselves. But as I have indicated to the House, if they do not, I have not ruled anything out.’

In January, it was revealed that only three council owned high rises nationwide had been reclad, out of 160 that failed the government’s fire safety tests. The government’s pace of response was attacked as ‘simply not good enough’, with details having emerged amid issues regarding councils requesting funding assistance, and the government was accused in parliament of breaking its pledge to help councils with funding.

Four were reported to be set to receive funding, after an update from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government at a parliamentary select committee, which stated that the department ‘has received inquiries from 36 councils about financial help’, but that ‘so far none have been approved’. Last week, MPs wrote to the government to implore it to ‘urgently release’ funds to ‘accelerate’ removal of combustible cladding.

Following Chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget last year, the only fire safety investment was £28m to help victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, though he stated that ‘if any local authority cannot access funding to pay for essential fire safety work, they should contact us immediately’, and that ‘we will not let financial constraints get in the way of essential safety work’.

Prime Minister Theresa May recently committed to spending around £400m to pay for the removal of flammable cladding from local authority and housing association high rises. Noting that fire services had now checked more than 1,250 high rises, a spokeswoman for Mrs May said that cladding replacement was still required on 158 high rises 18 metres or higher in the social sector, with work begun on 104.

However, it was later reported that the government has admitted that the funding ‘will be taken from [its] Affordable Homes Programme’, which means ‘fewer affordable homes will be built in the coming years’, with neither Mrs May nor Mr Brokenshire having ‘mentioned that the money was coming from that budget when they announced the bailout’.