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November 10, 2021

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Building safety

Gove admits ‘mistakes made’ in cladding crisis, questions leaseholder responsibility for costs and revokes advice on low-rise buildings

Safety advice released in the wake of the Grenfell Tower Fire that has stood since January 2020, and has led to hundreds of low-rise buildings being deemed unsafe, is to be withdrawn by Christmas according to Michael Gove.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government

The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, told MPs the Government would be revoking previous advice for buildings owners to check cladding systems on all blocks, regardless of their height – advice which left many leaseholders unable to sell their homes.

Prior to this advice note in January 2020, checks had only been required on buildings over 18m tall where the difficulty evacuating from a fire created a risk to life. Now, Gove says he intends to withdraw the advice note.

Gove told MPs: “The Government has a responsibility to make buildings safe, but we also have a responsibility to relieve some of the obligations faced by leaseholders at the moment who are innocent parties in this and in many circumstances are being asked to pay disproportionate sums when there are individuals in business, some of them still in business, who are guilty men and women.”

In evidence presented to the Commons select committee on levelling up, housing and communities, Gove also admitted that the government ‘made mistakes’ in the lead up to Grenfell.

Gove acknowledged: “We collectively, the department, some of local government, others in the private sector, failed people at Grenfell.”

The government had initially promised a £1bn Building Safety Fund, later increased to £5bn, to remove the flammable cladding on high-rise buildings, but MPs later estimated the cost would be £15bn. In addition, buildings between 11 meters and 18 meters were not covered by the Building Safety Fund, leading to ministers announcing a loan scheme where leaseholders would repay up to £50 a month.

Gove told the House of Commons housing committee that he would “pause” plans for the loans, claiming: “I am still unhappy with the principle of leaseholders having to pay at all, no matter how effective a scheme might be in capping their costs or not hitting them too hard at any one time.

“My question is, why do they have to pay at all?”

The Housing Secretary also criticised building developers, stating there were questions from the Grenfell inquiry as to whether they had knowingly put “cost reduction before safety.”

The Future of Fire Safety: download the eBook

Is the fire protection industry adapting to the post-Grenfell reality fast enough? At FIREX International 2019, Europe's only dedicated fire safety event, some of the world's leading fire safety experts covered this theme. This eBook covers the key insights from those discussions on the developments shaping the profession, with topics including:

  • Grenfell Inquiry must yield “bedrock change” – and soon
  • After Grenfell: Jonathan O’Neill OBE on how austerity and policy “on the hoof” are hampering progress
  • Hackitt’s Golden Thread: Fire, facilities and building safety
  • Fire safety community has to “get on board” with technological changes

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