Remediation work on the Chalcots Estate is expected to take over two years to complete, while costs have increased to nearly £90m.
Last October, Camden Council was given £80m of the £248m allocated by the government towards the removal and replacement of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on the estate’s high rises. The estate has seen some cladding removed but also has issues with curtain walling and windows, though it was ‘not clear’ if some of the money would also cover the cost of evacuating the estate, the waking watch installed, or high fuel bills while the site is unclad.
Council papers had also suggested that the entire series of works on that estate’s five towers would cost between £50m and £56m, and residents have been sent a letter that said the council can complete the work ‘without impacting our wider programme of improvement and refurbishment of the rest of our housing stock, or our programme to build new council homes.
Now, Inside Housing has reported that the works will cost around £89.69m, ‘nearly double’ the estimated figure laid out by the council previously. This covers the full replacement of the cladding, but this is not expected to begin until this summer, with the full contract set to last 124 weeks, meaning work could be completed as late as summer 2021. That would mean that it would have been ‘nearly four years’ after the initial fire safety concerns were found post Grenfell.
The information was discovered in council papers published this week, which confirmed contractor Wates as the preferred bidder. The company will replace windows and curtain walls across the five blocks, while the council papers also revealed that £16m of the £80m provided by the government has been spent on cladding removal, ‘professional fees’ and ‘contingency’. As a result, the council needs to find another £25.5m from its own funds to cover the full costs.
It responded that the rise in the estimated costs was due to ‘changes of scope and specification of works’ that developed during cladding removal and building surveys, with additional work including replacing brickwork on bottom floors and replacing roof parapets. The council had pledged to use A1 rated cladding, but had to tell residents last November that it could not source such panels with a similar finish to the original, and so would need to change panel use.
A further delay is due to the need for the council to submit a planning amendment for consultation, which is expected to take 12 weeks to process. A spokesperson stated: ‘We must follow the correct procedures but within these parameters we have consistently acted quickly – from being the first council in the country to commit to removing ACM cladding, completely removing this within a matter of months, carrying out extensive safety work on the interior of the buildings and, now, fast tracking the decision process so we can progress the design work needed to get on with fitting the new panels and curtain wall.’