THE COMMUNITIES Secretary James Brokenshire has stated that private sector landlords have a ‘moral imperative’ to remove flammable cladding, with the government considering enforcement.
The Guardian reported on Mr Brokenshire’s letter to around 60 developers and building owners ‘including some of the UK’s biggest property firms’, in which he explained ‘actions they must take to avoid penalties’ concerning removing dangerous cladding. Companies contacted include Lendlease, Pemberstone, Paddington Corporation and GLA Land & Property, with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) releasing the information.
In regards to the penalties, The Guardian stated that companies ‘could be fined or barred from accessing other government schemes if they do not obey’, and Mr Brokenshire commented: ‘There is a moral imperative for private sector landlords to do the right thing and remove unsafe cladding quickly, and not leave leaseholders to cover the cost.’
He also urged developers to cover the cost of removing and replacing cladding, warning those ‘who are not acting quickly enough’ that they could face council enforcement action. In June, the government revealed that 156 further privately owned high rises were wrapped in combustible cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower, and it ‘expected’ numbers to ‘rise further’, as another 170 private sector blocks’ cladding status was ‘still to be confirmed’.
Progress on private buildings is ‘proving slower’ as freeholders are arguing that leaseholders should pay bills. Mr Brokenshire had stated earlier this year: ‘Fire and rescue services are working with building owners to ensure residents are safe now. But I want to see swifter progress in removing unsafe cladding. I have been clear that leaseholders should be protected from unfair costs and we expect the industry to do the right thing. If they don’t, I will continue to explore other routes and I am not ruling anything out.’
A taskforce was due to be set up to help councils identify cladding types on private buildings ‘amid growing concern that officials still do not know’, with MHCLG having previously ordered councils to identify buildings wrapped in aluminium composite material (ACM) ‘by the end of May’. Ministers are said to be frustrated that private landlords ‘have not come forward in sufficient numbers’ to confirm cladding types.
In July, government statistics revealed that only two new projects ‘got under way’ in a month, while only a quarter had plans in place. Of all privately owned buildings with ACM cladding, 23 had started the process of removing cladding by 12 July, ‘only two more’ than by 14 June. Four further buildings with ACM had been identified in that time, taking the total up to 301, with 74% of buildings with ACM ‘having not informed’ MHCLG of ‘any plans to remove the cladding’, a small fall from 76% a month before.
Around 100 buildings’ status in terms of cladding, the MHCLG added, was ‘still to be confirmed’, with between 3 to 5% of these expected to have ACM cladding. Only 77 of 301 private buildings had provided MHCLG with plans of remediation work, with the ministry also pointing out that while 15 social housing buildings had been said to have completed work, this had been revised down to 13 after ‘further investigation which identified that two buildings had not been signed off by their local authority’s building control team’.
The Guardian noted that as of August, 293 private buildings had ACM cladding, and the MHCLG ‘had not been informed’ of plans for 200 of these in terms of action to be taken. Residents of a range of privately owned blocks have either been charged for fire safety measures or have been taken to tribunals to order them to pay for the removal of cladding.
Such situations have arisen at: Babbage Point in Greenwich; Vallea Court and Cypress Place in Manchester; the NV Buildings in Salford Quays; and Victoria Wharf in Tower Hamlets. A few building companies and insurers elected to cover the cost of cladding replacement after tribunals and loss of value in other complexes, including New Capital Quay and Greenwich Square in Greenwich, as well as Citiscape in Croydon.
Recently, a director of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) stated that some private landlords in the UK are 'trying to hide the fact that their buildings' have the same cladding as Grenfell Tower.
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