Private Tower Blocks: Removal of Cladding

Part of Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee) – in the House of Commons at 7:52 pm on 29th April 2019.

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Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 7:52 pm, 29th April 2019

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. If he will bear with me, I will come on to some of those issues in my speech. If I have not addressed them by the end, he can by all means intervene on me again.

Owing to our continued pressure, following the Secretary of State writing to all building owners, there is a growing list of owners and developers who are agreeing to fund remediation. Leaseholders are currently protected from remediation costs in 83 out of 176 residential buildings. The growing list of owners and developers who have stepped in includes Barratt Developments, Mace Group, Legal & General, Peabody, Aberdeen Asset Management and Frasers Property. I am pleased to say that following regular engagement from the Secretary of State, me and senior officials, the building owners at Green Quarter in Manchester have now written to leaseholders to confirm that a fund has been established. This will ensure that leaseholders will not have to pay for the cost of remediating the ACM. We are very pleased at this outcome. I know residents feel strong relief that the uncertainty and anxiety over costs has come to an end.

We remain concerned, however, that some leaseholders are not yet protected from costs. They have found themselves in this difficult and stressful situation through no fault of their own, having bought their properties in good faith. I would like to assure Members that the Secretary of State and I, as well as senior officials, continue to press owners and developers of all high-rise buildings with unsafe ACM cladding to protect leaseholders from paying for this essential remedial work. Further to that, we have been engaged across Government to consider additional interventions, so that progress can be made more swiftly.

We also want to make sure that leaseholders can access independent initial advice. We have provided funding to the Leasehold Advisory Service, which provides a free, initial service to affected leaseholders. Its dedicated advice line and outreach helps leaseholders to understand their rights and the terms of their leases. The Leasehold Advisory Service has supported a number of affected leaseholders to understand the terms of their leases and the legal process for challenging a building owner if they attempt to pass costs on.

On the subject of pace, we are working with all relevant parties, including local authorities and building owners, to ensure remediation happens without unnecessary delay. Remediation does take time and it is important to get it right. The time to complete work varies considerably depending on factors such as structure, extent of cladding and existing fire safety systems. For many buildings, this is a complex job involving major construction work. I am aware that the removal of cladding in a number of buildings has revealed other defects and issues that have complicated matters and needed rectification.