Almost £250 million has been allocated to 43 social housing landlords to pay for the removal and replacement of unsafe combustible aluminium composite material cladding from 135 high-rise tower blocks.
This is the first tranche of money to be released from the £400m programme announced by the Prime Minister earlier this year. Eighty per cent of the estimated removal costs will be paid up front to allow for an early start on the works. The remaining 20 per cent will be paid when the works are complete and the final costs are known. Applications had been received for funds to pay for the removal of Grenfell-style ACM cladding from 159 buildings, all of which need to be 18 metres or higher. A dozen applications were deemed ineligible and more information has been requested on a further twelve. No details of the landlords or the tower blocks has been released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, as a matter of public safety although it is understood most of the tower blocks are in London. According to MHCLG statistics, work had already begun on 120 of the 157 social housing blocks, with works completed on 22 of them. This is in stark contrast to the private sector where work has started on only 38 of 291 private sector blocks with ACM cladding, with work completed on just 17.
Housing Secretary James Brokenshire has issued another stark warning to private developers and freehold owners, saying he “will not rule anything out” if the building owners do not pay for remediation works. Regarding the financial help being given to social housing landlords, he said: “I am pleased the £400m funding has started to be released. We are doing the right thing by residents and fully funding the replacement of unsafe ACM cladding in social housing buildings 18 metres or above.” Of course this still leaves question marks hanging over the future of the other buildings that have ACM cladding on them, including student halls of residence, hotels, schools and hospitals. At the moment the Government is holding its line that a height of 18m is crucial in determining the need to remove combustible cladding from buildings. There is also no news on whether the Government will assist with the costs of retrofitting water sprinklers in tower blocks.
Council leaders at Birmingham and Croydon have been vociferous in demanding help with the multi-million costs of these works, which many safety experts are also calling for.
By Patrick Mooney, editor