Dangerous cladding removed from less than half Southwark’s affected blocks

Katherine Johnston (21 October, 2020)

Less than half have had cladding removed

29544L&Q's Arch Street - residents had to move out in 2019 during remedial work after fire safety problems were identified. Residents in other blocks around the country have not even had work begin.

More than three years after the Grenfell tower disaster less than half of Southwark’s buildings with dangerous cladding have had the materials removed, new government data reveals.

A report published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government into the progress made in removing Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding shows there are believed to be eleven to twenty  buildings in the borough with cladding unlikely to meet building regulations.  Between six and ten of them are yet to have remedial work finished.

Around a million and a half leaseholders across the UK are now believed to be ‘trapped’ in their unsellable high-rise homes with questions over who will pay for the spiralling costs of urgent safety works.

Buildings in the borough found to have unsafe cladding include L&Qs Arch Street – which residents were forced to leave in 2019.

This year developers were given planning permission to remove cladding from part of the Bermondsey Square development, and Buxton Homes submitted a planning application to remove insulation from a block in Great Suffolk Street as it did not meet fire safety standards.

Although none of Southwark Council’s blocks over eighteen metres are fitted with ACM cladding, as part of its rolling fire safety programme the local authority is testing the fascia construction of all blocks over this height, and will undertake works to address any identified issues.

The council is also replacing wooden sections on a number of blocks across the borough.

In parliament, Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes called on the Prime Minister to urgently fix delays in processing EWS1 certificates – without which leaseholders cannot sell.

Introduced after Grenfell, an EWS1 certificate acts as a guarantee that a building’s external wall system, including cladding and insulation, is safe for residents.

Many mortgage lenders across the country have made this certificate a condition of lending, but a shortage of trained surveyors and the massive number of affected blocks has created huge delays. Although the government has said it expects this work to be completed by the end of next year, it has been estimated certifying every at-risk block  – at the current rate of progress – could take a decade.

Hayes told Boris Johnson: “My constituent, Luke Thomas, has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He urgently needs to move closer to his family for support.

“Luke has a shared ownership flat in a low-rise building with wooden cladding, but he cannot sell it because mortgage lenders require an EWS1 certificate and Luke’s building does not have one.

“Estimates suggest that it could take  ten years to certify every building affected, but Luke and hundreds of thousands of people like him cannot wait that long. When will the Prime Minister end this scandal?”

Johnson reiterated that the government needed to try to find mortgage support for leaseholders in affected homes, and ‘get on’ with removing cladding.

The government has made £600m available for ACM panel removal, with another pot of £1bn to tackle other fire safety problems in high-rise blocks

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