More high rise blocks in Portsmouth could benefit from £1bn government cladding fund

MORE high-rise buildings in Portsmouth could be stripped of 'unsafe' cladding using a slice of a £1bn fund - ‘allaying fears’ for residents, the council's housing boss has said.

Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 11:12 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 5:17 pm
Portsmouth City Councillor Darren Sanders at Leamington House in Earlsdon Street which is set to be deconstructed. Picture by: Malcolm Wells (180605-2128)

The city council is reviewing all privately owned buildings in Portsmouth that are over 18 metres tall that carry non-aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding, as they are now eligible for cash to remove the cladding.

Previously funds totalling £600m were available for social and privately owned tower blocks with ACM cladding.

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Councillor Darren Sanders, Portsmouth City Council's cabinet member for housing, welcomed the funding. He said: 'There was a fear it would apply only to council-owned buildings when residents of all buildings need to be safe. This has removed that fear.

'Secondly there was a fear that some leaseholders in other parts of the country have been told to stump up the money to pay for works. It's wrong because it's something the building owners should pay for.'

He added: 'Based on the government's current criteria high-rise buildings have been prioritised. If that criteria changes to two or three storey buildings we will look at that.'

It comes after two council-owned tower blocks - Leamington and Horatia House in Somers Town - were evacuated when de-cladding work revealed weaknesses in the structures, the cost for which has already been picked up by government.

Cllr Sanders admitted work to de-construct and re-build the sites could be 'delayed' due to the coronavirus pandemic but that the project board is continuing to meet.

'Obviously there is an uncertainty in regards to construction work and starting up any new projects has meant work has been pushed back because of the crisis,' he said.

The £1bn fund from government will also be used to install sprinklers in residential buildings that are more than 11m high.

City councillor and housing activist Cal Corkery said: 'It's important that everyone's confident the building they are living in is safe and secure and any additional funding to achieve that should be welcomed.

'But it's quite a long way down the line after the Grenfell disaster for government to be putting this funding out so I would ask why it has taken so long.'

The government funding doesn't apply to any blocks owned by housing firm Vivid, however, work is under way by the company to replace ACM cladding on Southdown View in Hilsea and Ockenden House and Harding House in Cosham.

A total of 272 households were rehoused from Leamington and Horatia between 2018 and 2019. It is planned the same number of social houses will be built on the sites once they are removed.

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