Over 15,000 London homes still have Grenfell-style cladding
At today’s Mayor’s Question Time, Andrew Dismore AM, Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, questioned the Mayor Sadiq Khan over the removal of Grenfell type cladding from tall buildings. (Video here)
Mr Dismore asked:
‘At an absolute minimum, there are 132 high rise residential buildings in London where dangerous ACM-style cladding has yet to be fixed. That does not include non-ACM cladding systems that also fail to meet fire safety regulations. Are you satisfied with the speed with which this issue of flammable cladding is being addressed?
‘Whist the Government won’t publish the actual numbers of ACM clad buildings in London and in the rest of the country which is itself outrageous, would you agree that progress in removing flammable cladding has been at a snail’s pace?
‘Figures just obtained reveal that in the social sector in London, 4,600 homes out of 8,400 nationwide have ACM cladding yet to be removed and in London’s private sector, 10,600 homes out of a national total of 16,400 are in blocks yet to be remediated. Altogether 15,200 London homes are at risk from ACM cladding.
The Government’s new fund for private sector freeholders is only open for three months, and is generally seen to be an unrealistic timeframe and inadequate given the scale of what needs to be done. The GLA has been administering the social sector remediation fund in London. Will you consider how this expertise can be used to get swifter action in the private sector?’
‘London local authorities, and indeed the private sector, are also facing the need to remove non-ACM fire risk cladding, such as zinc composite, copper composite aluminium honeycomb, high pressure laminates, brick slip systems and reconstituted stone. The Government commissioned a method for testing these cladding systems, but this does not measure the toxicity of the smoke released when the material burns, for example, and even then the testing process was not due to begin till 29th April. Will you raise this issue with the Government and ask them to explain why they have only addressed part of the problem and not all the risks that potentially threaten residents?
The Mayor said that “Ministers have been far too slow at every turn”. He said City Hall has asked the Government to broaden the scope to other types of cladding and spoke about the stress and anxiety experienced by those living in unsafe homes in the private sector, unsure as to whether they’d be faced with huge bills.
After MQT Mr Dismore added:
‘Two years on from Grenfell, thousands of people in both social housing and the private sector still do not know how long it will be before their homes are made safe. With their fixation on Brexit, the Government has failed to get to grips with other urgent business, which has gone by the wayside. Late in the day, they have announced some funding: for the social sector almost a year on from the tragedy of Grenfell, and for the private sector almost two years later. This is a shambolic disgrace and it is high time the Government accepted its most important duty to the country- to ensure its citizens can live safely in their homes.’
Notes for editors
Dwellings (i.e. individual flats) with ACM cladding yet to be remediated: private sector: 10,600 dwellings in London of a nationwide total of 16,400:
Social sector: 4600 dwellings in London of a nationwide total of 8400
£400m for social sector cladding remediation was announced in May 2018. The GLA is responsible for £275m of this fund, the estimated cost in London. An initial tranche of £248m was allocated in October. As of February 2019, £131.3m has been released to twelve local authorities. £80m of that was to Camden. On 9 May 2019 the Government announced a £200m fund for private sector remediation. This should be in place by early July. However, leaseholder groups have criticised the fund as being insufficient. Quotes for remediation have typically been in the £4m to £5m range and the £200m works averages out at about £1.2m per building. The Government announcement is silent on the costs of interim fire safety measures, which have also been loaded onto leaseholders in some instances.
Building owners have three months to bid for funds and must show they have taken reasonable steps to recover costs from the people responsible for the ACM cladding. In 80 buildings, developers and building owners have already agreed to fund remediation works on private dwellings. But in another 96, leaseholders are being threatened with the cost of interim safety measures and remediation.
There are 95 high-rise residential and publicly-owned buildings in England that have finished remediation works to remove Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding systems (including receiving signoff from building control where necessary) – an increase of six since the end of March. This comprises:
- 50 social sector residential buildings, managed by local authorities or housing associations;
- 11 private sector residential buildings;
- 31 student accommodation buildings;
- 1 hotel; and
- 2 publicly-owned buildings, of which: 1 is an education building
Of the 108 social sector residential buildings with ACM cladding systems unlikely to meet Building Regulations yet to be remediated
- 87 have started remediation;
- 20 have a remediation plan in place but works have not started; and
- 1 building has reported an intent to remediate and is developing plans.
Of the 164 private sector residential buildings with ACM cladding systems unlikely to meet Building Regulations yet to be remediated:
- 16 have started remediation;
- 78 have a remediation plan in place but works have not started;
- 38 have responded with an intent to remediate and are developing plans; and
- 32 buildings remain with unclear remediation plans.
The Housing Health and Safety Rating System was amended in November 2018 specifically to target flammable cladding and allegedly allow councils to remediate private residential towers where the owner was refusing to engage. But these powers have been described as “useless” by local authorities because of the limited circumstances where a “category 1” (i.e. immediate) risk exists due to cladding.
The UK Cladding Action Group’s survey of residents, which covered residents of privately-owned tower blocks in 10 local authority areas mostly in London and Manchester, showed 92.3% have money worries, 65.8% have difficulty sleeping and 58.7% feel anxious or worried daily about the cladding issues.
Local authorities in London are also dealing with non-ACM cladding systems that are unlikely to meet the updated building safety regulations, covering zinc composite material, copper composite material, aluminium honeycomb, high pressure laminates, brick slip systems and reconstituted stone.
The Government has commissioned a bespoke method for testing the non-ACM cladding, rather than the large-scale BS8414 test that is standard. The Government claims it has consulted with experts on the design of the bespoke test, but on questioning from Steve Reed MP admitted that this was limited to industry groups and did not measure the toxicity of the smoke released when the material burns.
The testing was commissioned in August 2018 but delayed until March. Then the test rig was damaged so the process has been delayed again. The testing was due to begin on 29 April.