Tower Hamlets Council has called upon the government to set a nationwide deadline to remove Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding, as part of a new Building Safety Pledge which also calls for the costs of this work to be covered by building owners, developers or the government - and not by the affected leaseholders.
Tower Hamlets in London’s East End is home to the largest number of tower blocks in the country, with many blocks needing work to remove combustible cladding, following the Grenfell tragedy four years ago.
In May, 20 fire engines had to attend a fire which broke out in an 8th floor flat of New Providence Wharf – a 19-story privately-owned block of flats, partly cladded in ACM.
To date, a total of 293 bids from building owners in Tower Hamlets have been made to the Government’s building safety fund to help finance the works, followed by Manchester (144), Newham (138) and Westminster (125).
The Tower Hamlets Building Safety Pledge was launched last week and sets out what the council is able to do using its powers and what it needs partners to do to ensure residents are safe.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “Everyone has the right to feel safe in their own homes, but many don’t feel safe as four years after the Grenfell tragedy, we are still no nearer to a Government-set date for all unsafe cladding to be removed from blocks, with part of the hold up being who should foot the bill.
“We are using all our available resources to bring building owners to the table and to emphasise the need for co-operation and action, but there is a limit to the powers we have at our disposal, which is why we need the Government to take action and provide some clarity, so that our residents and others elsewhere who live in ACM cladded blocks can feel safe in their own homes.”
Cllr Eve McQuillan, Cabinet Member for Planning and Social Inclusion, said: “I’ve met residents who have suffered stress and anxiety because they are living in a potentially unsafe building, and others who saved and stretched to get on the housing ladder and are now living in a worthless property.
“It is distressing and should not continue. Our pledge sets out what we can do and what we need others to do to start to put an end to this problem that unfairly effects our borough.”
Separately, the government has said that leaseholders in blocks of flats with cladding "should be supported to buy, sell or re-mortgage their homes" after the government agreed with major financial lenders to stop the use for an EWS1 form [a form introduced as part of a new External Wall Fire Review process valuing high-rise buildings] for buildings below 18 metres.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the government would be "strengthening the overall regulatory system" so that "leaseholders cannot remain stuck in homes they cannot sell because of excessive industry caution, nor should they feel that they are living in homes that are unsafe, when the evidence demonstrates otherwise".
He added: "That’s why I commissioned an expert group to further examine the issue, and have already agreed with many major lenders that lower-rise buildings will no longer need an EWS1 form, and the presumption should be that these homes can be bought and sold as normal.
"We hope that this intervention will help restore balance to the market and provide reassurance for existing and aspiring homeowners alike. The government has made its position very clear and I urge the rest of the market to show leadership and endorse this proportionate, evidence based, safety approach."
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