Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister was Editor of IFSEC Global from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam is also a former Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
January 24, 2018

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The Video Surveillance Report 2020

GRENFELL fallout

Government urged to finance cladding replacements with only three buildings having replaced ACM panels since Grenfell

Aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on an office building

The government should provide interest-free loans for the purpose of replacing flammable cladding, the head of a property managers group has said.

The government has so far resisted calls to provide extra funding for fire safety work on residential buildings in the wake of the Grenfell fire, which claimed 71 lives and left residents homeless.

Cladding samples taken from 228 buildings have since failed fire safety tests.

Seven months on from the Grenfell tragedy, only three tower blocks have replaced cladding that failed flammability tests. Some 160 social housing buildings were included in the figures, 57 of which have begun the removal of cladding.

Of those, 26 have removed all cladding, nine have commenced installation of replacement cladding, and three have had it fully replaced.

Residents of some privately-owned tower blocks have been asked to pay for replacement panels through higher service charges.

“Get the work done and argue afterwards,” Dr Glen, chief executive of the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA), told BBC News.

Dr Glen, whose organisation which represents about half of property managers in England and Wales, admitted that leaseholders are legally obliged to pay.

Not at fault

However, he but argues that neither they nor the landlords are at fault –their cladding having being approved by local building control bodies – and that the government should provide assistance.

“But the issue here – which for me is more important – is time, because while everybody is talking about the legal costs and who should pay, people are living in dangerous buildings,” he continues.

He said 12 of ARMA’s 250 members must replace cladding at an estimated cost of £20m.

The bill for replacement cladding at Croydon’s Citiscape totals £2m and residents are being asked to pay for replacement panels through higher service charges.

A resident of Fresh Apartments in Salford, Will Stanton, told BBC News that his quarterly service charge at Fresh Apartments in Salford has risen from £287 to £900. It’s “pretty distressing” to be in an “unprecedented situation where nobody really knows how much it is going to cost” or “where the costs are going to be borne,” he said.

“Obviously I want to live in a safe home […] but it is unfair for me to be charged when there are some culpable parties,” he said.

The higher service charge – which has more than trebled – will also pay for fire marshals on round-the-clock duty until the work is completed.

ACM (aluminium composite material) panels, which were fitted in the Grenfell blaze in a multimillion pound refurbishment two years before the worst UK fire in living memory, are widely believed to have accelerated the blaze that killed 71 people in Grenfell last June.

Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey said: “More than seven months after the Grenfell Tower fire, it should shame Ministers that only three tower blocks with dangerous cladding have been replaced.

“Ministers have been off the pace at every stage in their response to the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower.

“Only one in four Grenfell survivors have a new permanent home, the Government still can’t confirm how many high-rise buildings are unsafe and Ministers are refusing to help with any funding for essential fire safety work in the blocks they do know are dangerous.

“It’s simply not good enough.”

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said it was his “number one priority” to make sure that tower block residents “feel completely safe”.

He said that “cladding is being replaced slowly […] We are very interested to make sure there is enough capacity in the industry to meet the extra demand that is now upon it.”

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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