MPs warn £200m government fund to replace dangerous cladding after Grenfell tragedy is 'not enough'

WHITEHALL has been ‘far too slow’ in reforming building fire safety laws following the Grenfell tragedy and is still not doing enough to remove dangerous cladding from buildings.

Thursday, 18th July 2019, 1:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 31st July 2019, 10:47 am
Harbour Tower in Gosport. Picture: David George

That’s the view of an influential group of MPs who are today demanding the government acts urgently to address the situation.

The call for action comes as tower blocks across the Portsmouth area, identified as having defective cladding after 2017’s Grenfell disaster – where 72 people died, still have not had replacement covers installed.

Now MPs sitting on the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee have said enough is enough.

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Clive Betts, chairman of the group, said: ‘We are two years on from the Grenfell Tower disaster and the government is far behind where it should be in every aspect of its response. Further delay is simply not acceptable.’

In its latest report, the committee warned a £200m pot to help councils and housing associations pay for fire-risk cladding to be removed would ‘not be sufficient’.

The government has also ‘failed to provide funding’ for other forms of potentially dangerous cladding materials currently found on ‘hundreds more existing residential and high-risk buildings’, the report stressed.

The committee said the government must immediately extend its fund to cover the removal of any form of combustible cladding.

‘The government cannot morally justify funding the replacement of one form of dangerous cladding, but not others,’ Mr Betts added.

In Portsmouth residents living in Hilsea’s Southdown View and Cosham’s Harding House, Ockendon House block of flats – all run by housing association Vivid – are still waiting for cladding to be removed after an inspection revealed they were a fire risk.

Councillor Darren Sanders, Portsmouth housing boss, said inaction was unacceptable and demanded the government stump up more cash to help.

‘We can’t put money or profit before the safety of residents,’ he said. ‘People need to feel safe in their own homes and the government must act. ‘

Two tower blocks in Somers Town, Horatia House and Lemmington House, have already had their cladding removed.

While across the water in Gosport work has started to strip the cladding from five tower blocks, run by housing firm Hyde.

Brent O’Halloran, director of asset management for Hyde, said they were unable to comment on the government’s progress.

‘However, we would like to emphasise that the safety of our residents is our utmost priority and Hyde did not wait for government to fund the works to Gosport towers,’ he added.

Julian Chun, director of strategic services at Vivid, said the group shared the committee’s concerns on the ‘excessive amount of time’ its taken for government to reform the build and safety regime.

‘The £200m that the government has set aside for cladding replacement is unlikely to be sufficient and ought to be reviewed over time,’ he said.

He added Vivid was hunting for cladding replacements its three properties in the city and expected work to begin in early 2020.

The work would not be funded by the government as the buildings are not above the 18m height threshold, with Vivid vowing to pay the project.