After the Grenfell tower tragedy in 2017, the UK failed to remove unsafe cladding across the country – now, the Government has a new proposal for developers
Today (10 January), UK Housing Secretary Michael Gove released a new framework for removing unsafe cladding across the UK.
Developers will have until early March, 2022, to agree to a £4 billion payment plan, which would fix the cladding issue for buildings between 11 and 18 metres high.
The companies involved in creating buildings with “historic safety defects” will also be asked to provide full information as far back as 30 years.
All companies which make annual profits at or above £10 million are expected to agree to the payment plan. The Housing Secretary also proposes that the Government would take legal action against developers who do not agree to the new proposal.
“It has been four years of inequality and inaction”
Across the UK, low-rise tower blocks used by local housing authorities, students, and private renters, have been cladded with highly flammable material for nearly five years. Since the tragedy in 2017 that saw 72 people dead, there has been debate about whether the Government, leaseholders, or developers should be responsible for funding the billions required to remove unsafe cladding. All the existing fire safety mechanisms also failed the residents of Grenfell tower, leaving hundreds without a place to live.
In a blog post from 2016, the Grenfell Action Group predicted the inevitability of a fire. They highlighted a near miss with an electrical fire in 2013, fires in similar buildings and a lack of action from Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO).
The post said: “It is our conviction that a serious fire in a tower block or similar high density residential property is the most likely reason that those who wield power at the KCTMO will be found out.”
The activist group, Justice4Grenfell, say that there has been no legal justice for the 72 lives lost in the fire.
Justice4Grenfell spokesperson, Yvette Williams, said:
“Those in positions of power must be held accountable as it has been four years of inequality and inaction. Few recommendations from Phase 1 of the inquiry have been implemented; amendments to a fire safety bill were consistently voted down and thousands of people still live-in unsafe homes with poor or no remuneration to remove dangerous materials. At the same time building industry companies who falsified fire tests and certificates are still making huge profits.
“This is not justice; this is a lack of political will and accountability.”
Kingspan, a company connected to the Grenfell tower tragedy, recently signed a sponsorship deal with the Mercedes F1 team.
No more loans for leaseholders, developers now responsible
While the UK Government has provided money for cladding removal of high-rise buildings, low-rise building owners were given the option of taking loans to pay off the costly work. This plan, incurring lifelong debts for leaseholders, was initially proposed in February, 2021.
Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick described it as a “comprehensive plan” at the time.
With the new proposal by Michael Gove, the loan plan has been indefinitely stopped.
In a letter to developers, Gove said: “Government has accepted its share of responsibility and made significant financial provision through its ACM remediation programme and the Building Safety Fund. Some developers have started doing 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.”
Nabil Choucair, who lost six members of his family, said: “Four years on I fear that those responsible for the fire are going to get away with murder.”