London development pays £30,000 per week for waking watch
ACCORDING TO landlord group G15, one of its members’ London based developments has had to spend £30,000 a week for 24 hour waking watch fire safety patrols.
Inside Housing reported on the news from G15 chair and Network Homes chief executive Helen Evans, who revealed that one ‘major’ housing association is paying £30,000 for a waking watch at a 450 home development in west London, as investigations into cladding and other fire safety issues are undertaken. Over a full year this would amount to £1.5m, with Ms Evans commenting that ‘this bill is just for an interim measure’.
That will cover investigations of ‘first draft findings from advice of our fire safety advisers’, she added, and one scheme made up of seven buildings’. Ms Evans also noted that the waking watch ‘is the least of it because that is the revenue expenditure happening now, the capital costs or the overall costs of remediation [will be high], we have put a range of figures in front of the board’.
The news outlet pointed out that this is just one example of the ‘huge fire safety costs currently facing housing associations across the country’, with London experiencing ‘particularly acute’ issues due to its larger number of high rises – G15 landlords alone own 1,145 over 18m in height. Network itself owns 58 buildings over 18m, and ‘almost all’ have some type of cladding system, with independent companies being employed to provide reports.
Ms Evans noted that it was ‘prioritising the tallest and most at risk’ buildings, with Network’s experience so far having been that ‘intrusive surveys’ were finding issues ‘in almost every case’, and as chair of the G15 dealing with fire safety issues was ‘top of her priority list’. Network’s experiences with the surveys was aligning with other London housing associations, with Hyde finding fire safety issues in all 86 of its high rises.
Citing the estimation by G15 earlier this year that the total cost of fixing fire safety issues across its building portfolio would be £6.9bn, Ms Evans added confirmation that associations would ‘be pursuing contractors’ for some of the costs in certain situations. She added: ‘There are questions to be asked about the construction sector.
‘How can it be that with a commissioning housing association, a developer, a contractor, two sets of employer’s agents, two sets of clerks of works, full insurance and full building control sign-off, that these buildings are so defective?’
Inside Housing also pointed out that housing associations in London are ‘being adversely impacted’ by the government’s Advice Note 14, which calls on building owners to ‘check for and remove’ non aluminium composite material (ACM) materials. The news outlet stated that this was ‘wreaking havoc for flatowners who are having their properties valued at £0’, meaning that they cannot sell or remortgage flats, with the G15 noting that this has ‘so far’ impacted 650 families.
Ms Evans concluded: ‘The first thing is we need guidance on the guidance. Advice note 14 is clearly being differently interpreted in different places, and there is huge variation in likely financial impact of required remediation if you take one interpretation compared to another.’