Industry body welcomes plans to make the industry pay to fix unsafe cladding, but argues that defective fire breaks, insulation and adequate smoke ventilation must also be tackled
Trade body BESA has urged the government to ensure it extends commitments for funding unsafe cladding in high rise buildings to also apply to other fire safety defects.
The association said it welcomed Housing Minister Michael Gove’s announcement this week of a raft of new measures to address building fire safety issues in England. These will require developers and cladding companies to pay to rectify unsafe work they have overseen.
A period of two months has now been set for the industry to agree an action plan with the government concerning funding cladding remediation costs that are estimated at £4bn. BESA said that only buildings above 18m in height currently qualify for government support to rectify historical cladding defects, leaving many occupants or property owners having to cover remediation costs alone.
Graeme Fox, head of technical with BESA, said that Mr Gove’s commitments deserved credit for trying to tackle a complex safety issue in the form of unsafe cladding. He argued that the cladding concerns raised following the Grenfell Tower fire highlighted a “serious injustice” for many leaseholders and property owners that have had to cover significant costs for someone else’s defective work or otherwise risk living in unsafe conditions.
Cladding costs ‘one part’ of fire safety challenge
The government and the housing minister are now coming under pressure from BESA and MPs to deliver on ensuring the costs of non-cladding safety issues are also covered by the industry.
Mr Fox said, “In many cases fire safety problems go well beyond cladding. Many buildings also have defective or missing fire breaks, unsafe insulation, lack adequate smoke ventilation, and use other flammable materials. Who will pay to fix those problems?”
He also warned against putting the full blame of defects on to builders and contractors alone, by ensuring responsibility was shared across the entire supply chain.
“The Grenfell inquiry has shone a spotlight on shoddy workmanship, but it has also uncovered considerable problems with the way some building materials are tested and marketed. Most contractors buy or specify products in good faith having been presented with what should be compelling evidence that they comply with building regulations and are safe.”
“All parts of the supply chain have to learn from this scandal, and responsibility needs to be properly shared.”
Shortly after announcing plans to ensure the industry covers the cost of cladding defects this week, Mr Gove was questioned by MPs on the ongoing threat of ‘ruinous costs’ that still existed for fire safety issues such as defective compartmentation and missing fire breaks.
He told MP Lisa Nandy, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, that he agreed that the cost of non-cladding defects should likewise be covered by the industry that delivered them. Mr Gove said that he would back amending legislation at an unspecified date to look at covering the costs of fire safety issues outside of cladding work.