Government '˜will pay' for Portsmouth cladding removal, says council leader

MONEY to remove '˜fire risk' cladding from two of Portsmouth's high-rise buildings will come from the government, the city council leader has said.

Monday, 26th June 2017, 1:26 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 11:03 am
23/6/2017 (BM/BF) Cladding was being removed from Horatia House and Leamington House on Friday evening. Picture: Sarah Standing (170831-9672)

Councillor Donna Jones said the city council would be ‘getting the full cost recovered’ for the work to Horatia House and Leamington House in Somers Town.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt confirmed the council could expect financial help from the Department for Communities and Local Government.

She said: ‘The council faces costs in doing the remedial work on the cladded blocks.

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Cladding was being removed from Horatia House and Leamington House throughout the weekend. Picture: Sarah Standing

‘The Secretary of State has said that where councils need financial support, they will receive what help they need.’

Work to remove cladding from the two buildings began on Friday and continued over the weekend.

It comes after the blocks were named among 34 tower blocks across the country with cladding that had failed combustibility tests.

Today Cllr Jones told The News she was in ‘daily contact’ with the government about the operation, but could not confirm how much the work would cost.

Picture: Sarah Standing

She added: ‘The work will be continuing this week on both buildings, and we aim to complete it as quickly as possible.

‘The safety of residents is of paramount importance’.

As of this morning cladding had been removed up to the fourth storey of Horatia House, with work yet to begin on the second tower block.

No other buildings have been affected.

Picture: Sarah Standing

Appliances from Southsea fire station have been on hand, with warden patrols knocking on residents’ doors over the weekend to reassure them and answer any questions about fire risk.

Letters have also been posted through doors explaining the precautions.

A Local Government Association spokesperson said: ‘The LGA has a team of staff working closely with councils and the Department for Communities and Local Government around the clock to help local authorities as they continue to support communities affected during this difficult time.

‘We also continue to press the government to ensure councils have the funding they need to support residents and carry out any new safety measures.’

Cladding was being removed from Horatia House and Leamington House throughout the weekend. Picture: Sarah Standing

It added that councils were also supporting landlords to help make sure residents are kept safe if cladding tests fail.

Residents are invited to a special fire safety information event tomorrow at the New Theatre Royal to hear about the issues and discuss concerns.

The meeting starts at 6.30pm.

Cladding from 60 high-rise buildings from 25 council areas across England have failed safety tests, latest figures show.

Tests are to be carried out on 600 buildings following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire on June 14.

Cllr Jones said a report would be submitted to the government this week, asking for a urgent scoping process of Portsmouth’s biggest tower blocks to be carried out so sprinkler systems can be fitted.

Picture: Sarah Standing

Last week she wrote to the city’s two MPs calling for their support in securing funding for the sprinklers, which would be installed in 13 buildings with 10 storeys or more.

The scoping process would allow the council to find out much retrofitting would cost, though it has estimated at between £8-10 million.

Cllr Jones said that Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan had replied to her message and pledged his support, but she had not received a response from Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service chief fire officer Dave Curry previously called for all high-rise buildings to be retrofitted with sprinklers following the Grenfell blaze.

Picture: Sarah Standing