Government to spend £200m replacing unsafe Grenfell-style cladding on tower blocks

'Reckless' building owners refuse to pay for two years as public anger grows after deadly Grenfell fire

Abby Young-Powell
Thursday 09 May 2019 13:19 BST
The Grenfell fire in June 2017 killed 72 people
The Grenfell fire in June 2017 killed 72 people (Getty)

Unsafe Grenfell Tower-style cladding on private residential blocks will be replaced by the government at a cost of around £200 million, the Ministry for Housing has announced, following growing public anger over “reckless” building owners’ continued refusal to do so.

An estimated 20,000 people are thought to still live in homes wrapped in combustible cladding like that which caught fire in 2017 at Grenfell, killing 72 people. But many freeholders and developers have for two years refused to spend the money to make the 170 privately owned buildings safe.

“It is of paramount importance that everybody is able to feel and be safe in their homes,” Theresa May said in a statement. “A number of private building owners are doing the right thing ... but unfortunately too many are continuing to pass on the costs of removal and replacement to leaseholders.”

James Brokenshire, the communities secretary, criticised the “delay tactics” of some building owners. If these reckless building owners won’t act, the government will,” he said in a statement.

Mr Brokenshire accused some owners of trying to “pass on the costs” to residents by “threatening them with bills running to thousands of pounds”.

Grenfell United, a group of survivors and the bereaved, welcomed the announcement, saying it offered hope to people in dangerous blocks that the “nightmare” they have been living for nearly two years is almost over.

“This result is a testament to residents themselves, in social and private blocks, who refused to be ignored. The truth is we should never have had to fight for it,” a spokesperson said.

Residents living in the private residential blocks across England known to be clad in the aluminium composite material (ACM) are suffering from stress, anxiety and insomnia, the UK Cladding Action Group (UKCAG) found.

Ongoing financial pressure and safety fears caused by living in unsafe buildings is putting strain on their relationships with family and friends, residents said, with more than a quarter saying they cannot start a family.

Among the testimonies collected by UKCAG, one anonymous leaseholder said: “I feel constantly stressed, anxious, depressed, lost, abandoned and devastated by something that cannot be my responsibility.”

Another added: “We want to move so we can start a family but are unable to as the flat is not sellable, and we can’t raise a family in such a flammable building.”

Most of the affected buildings are in London and Greater Manchester and many of them belong to first-time buyers. Some leaseholders have been forced to mount their own 24-hour patrols to make sure fires don’t break out.

Residents and homeowners of affected buildings started the national campaign to force ministers to act earlier this year. It was backed by the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, the housing charity Shelter and the Local Government Association.

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