More responses to cladding funding
THE NATIONAL Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) called the government announcement a ‘step in the right direction’, and Allianz welcomed it, though Greater Manchester councillors and residents called it a ‘job half done’.
Last week, the government announced it will ‘fully fund’ replacement of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on privately owned high rises, with £200m made available to ‘remove and replace’ ACM cladding from around 170 privately owned high rises, and ‘fully fund’ the process ‘where building owners have failed to do so’. It also said the funding pledge would ‘eliminat[e] excuses used by some building owners’, thereby ‘protecting leaseholders from the costs’.
Building owners will have three months to access the money, with the government to ‘look carefully at those who fail to remediate and consider what further action can be taken’. A condition will require owners to ‘take reasonable steps to recover the costs from those responsible for the presence of the unsafe cladding’, while of 176 private high rises with ACM, only 10 have completed work. The NFCC stated that it welcomed the announcement, calling it a ‘step in the right direction’.
Roy Wilsher, chair of the NFCC, commented: ‘I am pleased funding is now available to remove dangerous cladding on privately owned high-rise buildings. However, I would have liked to have seen this happen sooner; it was raised as part of the Ministerial task force. It is however disappointing to see that a number of building owners have not taken steps to rectify this, as we now approach the two-year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire.
‘The impact of living with this cladding has had a detrimental impact on people’s quality of life. Residents have had to live in buildings knowing they are wrapped in dangerous cladding, while some owners have tried to pass the costs on to leaseholders, rather than taking responsibility. I would also like to see other buildings with cladding considered, as this fund is currently only for high-rise buildings over 18-metres in height. We should also be considering other buildings, including those which house vulnerable people.’
Insurance Business Magazine reported on the view of Neil Clutterbuck, chief underwriting officer for Allianz UK, who stated: ‘It is crucial that residents, no matter of property type, are safe in their homes. Allianz has supported the Association of British Insurers and Fire Protection Association views that building regulations have not been updated appropriately over recent years or kept pace with changes in construction methods and materials.
‘The official tests carried out to assess fire risks must accurately reflect the real world as properties built to a standard that protect life as well as the building itself will ultimately save more lives.’
Conversely, Place NorthWest reported on the views of leaders and residents in Greater Manchester, who said that the pledge ‘stops short’ of addressing the problems faced, with the region having 16 public blocks and 15 private blocks with ACM cladding. Work on the public buildings should be completed by the end of June, while ‘arrangements’ have been ‘resolved successfully’ for 10 of the 15 private blocks.
Six saw freeholders liable for work, but there are ‘further’ buildings without ACM that are unsafe. In turn, there ‘remains a lack of clarity over eligibility’ for the funding, with campaigners believing via estimate that ‘less than half’ of the affected buildings with ACM ‘will be helped’. A pressure group, Manchester Cladiators, was set up to demand government help for buildings including Skyline Central 1 and Burton Place.
City Gate resident and co founder of Manchester Cladiators Sam Cole stated: ‘Although it is welcome to finally learn that the Government has heard our calls for help, there are still many unanswered questions about this proposed cladding fund. Many Manchester residents with similar problems to us are also unlikely to benefit from this fund.’
Suzanne Richards, Manchester City Council’s executive member for housing and regeneration, said: ‘We do not differentiate between residents with Grenfell-style ACM cladding and other fire issues and strongly believe the Government should provide funding for all affected residents. It is simply unacceptable that some residents have won the ‘cladding lottery’ and others are left facing stress and life changing bills of up to £80k each. The Council will continue to give its full support to Manchester Cladiators until every affected Manchester resident feels safe in their homes.’
Salford mayor Paul Dennett, chair of the Greater Manchester High Rise Task Force, was concerned that funding the programme might see the government ‘shuffle’ resources ‘at the expense’ of affordable housing, and added: ‘I welcome the announcement by Government. However, this does not go far enough to ensure the safety of residents in high rise buildings. Nor is there yet enough clarity as to which buildings are and are not covered by this announcement.
‘We already know that building regulations are simply not fit for purpose following Government’s own commissioned independent review. Today we call again on Government to make further funding available urgently for all blocks and to cover all essential fire safety work. Leaseholders must not be left to pick up the bill.’