Fire brigade takes on block owners over cladding

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Frustrated by “lack of action” West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is taking matters into its own hands

Wow. The problem of combustible cladding on residential blocks just went up a level. Following the continued failure of building owners to replace unsafe cladding on 10 blocks in Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is threatening “prohibition of the entire building, or parts of it” if the owners can’t reassure them that they are taking action.

All the buildings were found to have dangerous cladding shortly after the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, with WYFRS pointing to a “lack of action” from some of those legally responsible for the blocks.

Property magazine Inside Housing contacted the owners of all the buildings involved and did receive assurances that they are working to tackle the problem. However, the latest government figures show that 318 of 436 buildings with Grenfell-style cladding have yet to complete remediation work.

An unknown number of other high and medium-rise buildings have been found with dangerous cladding of other kinds – a figure which it is thought could run into the tens of thousands.

In a move which – depending on your political viewpoint – could either be considered as unashamedly wooing leaseholders or simply doing the right thing, the Labour Party yesterday published a last-minute housing manifesto promising tough action on cladding removal.

The 20-page document updates Labour’s previous position on fire safety and pledges to:

  • Name and shame building owners who have yet to remove dangerous cladding and set a deadline for them to put a remediation plan in place.
  • Pass emergency legislation placing responsibility on owners to do the work, with powers put in place for councils to impose fines, followed by the “takeover” by the state of blocks that don’t have a plan.
  • An immediate widening of the government-sponsored testing regime to cover other forms of dangerous cladding
  • Set up a national task force, with the involvement of residents, to inspect buildings and prioritise fire safety work
  • Find additional funding to help pay for this work

It is unclear exactly how the state might “take over” blocks that don’t comply with a set removal deadline. This prospect would certainly be enough to put some voters off.

In fact, these dangerous materials could have been banned years ago by Labour following incidents in Germany and USA, who simply banned these ACM cladding products. The government at that time should have had its eyes and ears open and done the same!