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Government forces developers to fix cladding crisis

10 January 2022

MICHAEL GOVE, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has warned developers that they must pay to fix the cladding crisis they caused as he continues to overhaul the Conservative Government’s approach to building safety.

Gove has written to the industry, duly outlining a deadline of early March to agree a fully funded plan of action including remediating unsafe cladding on buildings of between 11 and 18 metres in height buildings. The currently estimated cost involved is said to be circa £4 billion.

Further, Gove has warned that he will take all steps necessary to make this happen, including restricting access to Government funding and future procurements, the use of planning powers and the pursuit of companies through the courts. He adds that if the industry fails to take responsibility, the Government will – if necessary – impose a solution in law.

At the time of writing, the Secretary of State is also due to make an oral statement to the House of Commons announcing plans to protect innocent leaseholders, many of whom are trapped in unsellable homes and face excessive bills to fix dangerous cladding defects.

In addition, Gove will also unveil a package of measures designed to restore common sense to the industry and end the situation of buildings being declared unsafe when they’re not.

Source of misery

In the letter, Gove asserts: “Our homes should be a source of security and pride. For too many of the people living in properties your industry has built in recent years, their home has become a source of misery. This must change. It is neither fair nor decent that innocent leaseholders, many of whom have worked hard and made sacrifices to get a foot on the housing ladder, should be landed with bills they cannot afford to fix problems they did not cause.”

Gove continues: “Government has accepted its share of responsibility and made significant financial provision through its ACM cladding remediation programme and the Building Safety Fund. Some developers have already done the right thing and funded remedial works, and I commend them for those actions, but too many others have failed to live up to their responsibilities.”

In the communication, the Secretary of State asks companies to agree to:

*make financial contributions to a dedicated fund set up to cover the full outstanding cost to remediate unsafe cladding on 11-18 metre-high buildings

*fund and undertake all necessary remediation work on buildings over 11 metres tall that they have played a role in developing

*provide comprehensive information on all buildings over 11 metres high which have historic safety defects and which they’ve played a part in constructing in the last 30 years

The clear majority of buildings between 11 and 18 metres high are safe, while others that do have combustible cladding may also be safe or can be made safe through effective use of existing or new fire safety measures, such as sprinkler systems and alarms. There are, however, a small number of residential buildings with unsafe cladding which must be addressed.

Greatest risks

Gove believes developers must take forward all necessary remediation work at pace, prioritising those structures with the greatest risks in the first instance and, in all cases, finding the quickest and most proportionate solution to make buildings safe.

He’s calling on industry to “enter an open and transparent dialogue” with the Government to hear its proposals, starting with a round table involving the largest residential developers and trade bodies. The Government will invite leaseholders and those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy to the table to discuss solutions at appropriate junctures in order to ensure discussions are not taking place behind closed doors.

The Government will announce a decision on which companies are in scope for funding contributions following discussions with industry, but expects it to cover all firms with annual profits from housebuilding at or above the £10 million mark.

The statement follows on from the Secretary of State ordering the suspension of Rydon Homes – who are linked to a company responsible for the refurbishment of the Grenfell Tower – from the Government’s Help to Buy scheme.