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Councils concerned with ‘significant cost’ of replacing building cladding

Councils have this week warned that costs of any major remedial work to replace and remove dangerous cladding from buildings must be met by the government.

It follows the DCLG announcing an independent review of building regulations and fire safety after the Grenfell Tower tragedy that claimed the lives of at least 80 people. 

The review will be headed up by Dame Judith Hackitt, chair of EEF at the Manufacturers’ Organisation, and will look into current building regulations, with a particular focus on high-rise buildings.

Initial results from large-scale tests of building cladding systems that were also published recently found that the aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding failed tests to check if they complied with current building regulations guidance.

The DCLG said the results of the test meant that more information was needed to understand how current building regulations and fire safety worked to make buildings as safe as possible in the future.

But now, councils in the LGA have warned that any funds involved must be made available centrally to minimise the cost to authorities of carrying out work to ensure buildings under their jurisdiction meet health and safety standards.

“After speaking to our member councils, we understand that nine of the high-rise blocks affected by these latest fire safety tests are owned by Salford Council,” said Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA.

“Salford Council continues to work hard to remove and replace the cladding system on these tower blocks and reassure residents about safety – as it has done ever since the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The rest of the affected buildings are all owned by housing associations, private and other landlords.”

The LGA chairman added that councils will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure their residents are all safe in their homes.

“All of the 16 councils which own blocks with different combinations of ACM cladding and insulation on them have already carried out fire safety checks, implemented precautionary measures where necessary and begun reviewing or replacing cladding materials on those blocks,” he continued.

“While councils are getting on with doing what they need to do, significant concerns remain about the financial implications. The government needs to commit to meeting exceptional costs for councils arising from any major remedial work, such as the removal and replacement of cladding systems.”

Lord Porter also slammed existing regulations for buildings in England, arguing that the Grenfell Tower fire “exposed a systemic failure of the current system of building regulation”.

“With test fails on buildings owned by a range of landlords across the country, we are pleased the government has accepted our call to begin an urgent and immediate review of building regulations. Local government must play a central role in this review from the outset,” he stated.

“We also continue to call on the Building Research Establishment and the industry to release results of previous safety tests, including desktop studies,” Lord Porter concluded. “Everything must be out in the open and this needs to happen as soon as possible.”

Commenting on the review of building regulations and fire safety, communities secretary Sajid Javid said the government has been working to make sure high-rise residents are safe.

“It’s clear we need to urgently look at building regulations and fire safety. This independent review will ensure we can swiftly make any necessary improvements,” he added. “Government is determined to make sure that we learn the lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire, and to ensure nothing like it can happen again.”

Review chair Dame Hackitt added: “I am honoured to be asked by government to lead this important independent review. This review will look at building regulations and fire safety to see what changes can be made for the future to make these more effective.”

Last week, it was revealed that Kensington Borough Council and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation could face corporate manslaughter charges for failing to fulfil their duty of protection to residents in the Grenfell high-rise.

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Ian Dunn   31/07/2017 at 20:12


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