Landlords again urged to make sure residential tower blocks are safe a year on from Grenfell fire
Housing Secretary James Brokenshire has again urged private sector landlords to step up and make sure homes are safe in tower blocks one year on from the Grenfell fire.
In a statement to Parliament he said that over the past year the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been working closely with fire and rescue services, local authorities and landlords to make sure other buildings like Grenfell Tower are safe.
The fire, which broke out on the 14 June 2017, spread rapidly, killing 72 people. The official review of building regulations and fire safety called for radical reform of the building regulatory system.
Now the inquiry into the fire has heard from experts that the cladding on the tower had seven catastrophic faults, was incorrectly installed and ‘substantially to blame’ for the disaster. It created routes for fire to spread.
According to Dr Barbara Lane, an expert commissioned by the Grenfell Tower inquiry, the cladding put on the building used material that did not meet fire safety standards, while the system as a whole was not capable of effectively preventing the inferno spreading.
Professor Luke Bisby explained in his report to the inquiry that the main reason the fire spread was the polyethylene-filled ACM rainscreen in the cladding. He also said combustible insulation, the presence of cavities and the use of combustible window frames added to the spread of the blaze.
Brokenshire revealed that remediation work has started on two thirds of buildings in the social housing sector. The Government is funding the removal and replacement of potentially dangerous ACM cladding on buildings over 18 metres owned by social landlords, with costs estimated at £400 million.
‘We’ve made it clear that we expect building owners in the private sector to not pass costs on to leaseholders. To that end, I recently met leaseholders and put their concerns to representatives from industry at a number of roundtables,’ Brokenshire said.
‘Some in the sector, such as Barratt Developments, Legal & General and Taylor Wimpey, are doing the right thing and taking responsibility. I urge all others to follow. The private sector must step up and I am not ruling anything out if they do not,’ he added.
Since the official review the Government has announced it intends to ban the use of combustible materials on the external walls of high rise residential buildings, subject to consultation which Brokenshire revealed will be published next week.
Meanwhile, London Assembly members have agreed a unanimous motion calling for further urgent safeguards for London residents. ‘One year on, it is extremely concerning to see that a significant number of Londoners are still exposed to the risks and dangers of highly combustible cladding in their homes. This is absolutely unacceptable,’ said Tom Copley who proposed the motion.
‘Grenfell has left an indelible mark on our city, and we need to ensure that no such disaster is ever repeated. This is why I am calling upon the Mayor, and the chairman of the London Assembly, to write to the Government to suggest a number of measures that will prevent the future use of combustible cladding and stretch the scope of their policies to protect private tenants,’ he revealed.