Grenfell Tower Met Police
Grenfell Tower in London was devastated by a fatal fire

Cautious welcome for Government cladding pledge

The Government’s announcement that it will fund the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding by councils and housing associations, estimated at £400m, has been met with approval by one of the region’s key social landlords.

One Manchester, which owns and manages 17 high-rise blocks in Hulme and East Manchester, said: “We are encouraged by the statement made yesterday by Theresa May and we look forward to further information as promised from the housing secretary.

“We will continue with our programme of works which is already underway. We have committed to funding these works and will continue to do so. We will also be closely studying the Hackitt Review.”

The review into the Grenfell disaster headed by Dame Judith Hackitt has reported today. Already being heavily criticised by campaigners, it has stopped short of recommending a ban on flammable cladding, saying that this would not address the root causes of the problems in building regulations. Hackitt described a “race to the bottom” in safety practices, with cost prioritised over safety.

In terms of funding safe cladding, the government said that local authorities and housing associations will be given access to the money to help with “reasonable costs” of removing and replacing unsafe cladding from buildings they own to ensure people are safe in their homes.

The building safety programme initiated in the wake of Grenfell reported that aluminium composite material cladding on buildings more than 18m tall was unsafe, and any remaining such cladding should be remediated by building owners.

Several housing associations and local authorities in the region had acted ahead of this, starting removal programmes within weeks of the tragedy last June.

Of One Manchester’s 17 blocks, 16 had ACM cladding, and 13 of those failed tests, leading to the start of a removal and replacement programme that started in January and will continue until next year.

The Government acknowledged that discussions with social sector landlords around fire safety work had made it apparent “that they are having to take decisions about how to prioritise important services, repairs and maintenance work and investment in new homes”.

The latest figures available from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government show that more than 65% of social housing buildings with unsafe cladding are currently going through the process of remediation.

James Brokenshire, recently appointed as housing secretary, said: “People must always feel safe in their own home. Since the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, we have taken steps to ensure the immediate safety of all high rise buildings.

“This money will ensure local authorities and housing associations are being given the support they need to get this work done now as well as removing the uncertainty around funding.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said: “We have always been clear that unsafe cladding must be removed from tower blocks so that people are safe in their own homes.

“But we do not want vital safety work to put at risk our high priority house-building programmes. So we have decided to provide funding to ensure that housing associations and councils can carry out this vital work.”

Brokenshire is to meet industry representatives to discuss remediation in a roundtable session, although a date has not yet been set.

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How come all the Design-and-Build contractors who installed these acres of combustible cladding are avoiding scrutiny?

Design-and-Build…the clue’s in the name.

By LLoyd Hitchmough

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