Building owners have been urged to act and put the safety of residents first as the government’s £1bn Building Safety Fund to remove dangerous cladding was launched this week by housing secretary Robert Jenrick.
The government is already providing £600m for the replacement of ACM cladding systems, bringing total funding for remediation up to £1.6bn, but Labour’s shadow minister for housing and planning claimed the fund would still not be enough to make high rise buildings safe nearly three years after the Grenfell tragedy.
The announcement came as the government published the prospectus for the fund which it claimed will meet the cost for remediation of unsafe non-ACM cladding systems on residential buildings in the private and social sector that are 18 metres and over and do not comply with building regulations.
Ministers have also announced that sprinkler systems and consistent wayfinding signage will be mandatory in all new high-rise blocks over 11 metres tall.
The new fund is predominately targeted at supporting leaseholders in the private sector facing significant bills. However, ministers are clear that for leaseholders living in buildings owned by providers in the social sector, it will provide funding to meet the provider’s costs which would otherwise have been borne by leaseholders. The government expects landlords to cover these costs without increasing rent for their tenants.
Robert Jenrick, housing secretary, said: “I will not accept any excuses from building owners who have yet to take action and those responsible should register for the fund so that they can start the remediation process immediately. I have also reached an agreement with local leaders so that this important work can continue safely during the pandemic.
“New statutory guidance published today also means that all new residential buildings over 11 metres tall will be fitted with sprinkler systems. This is another critical part of our commitment to delivering the biggest changes to building safety for a generation.”
Mike Amesbury, Labour’s shadow minister for housing and planning, said: “While funding to deal with the issue of dangerous cladding is welcome, the size and scope of the fund will not be sufficient to make high rise buildings safe nearly three years after the Grenfell tragedy.
“The government’s plans also leave critical problems unresolved: first-come-first-serve funding will not protect all buildings, while social landlords are excluded from the fund and there will be no help for residents to deal with sky-high insurance premiums. The government must address these problems urgently if we are to protect residents from another Grenfell tragedy.”
The registration process for the Building Safety Fund will open on 1 June 2020 and close on 31 July 2020. The government says that full application guidance will be issued after the registration phase is complete.