‘Clarity needed’ on cladding in private sector housing in wake of Grenfell

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Bethan Sayed AM says residents in private sector fear they may have to cover the costs of fire safety upgrades.

Following the Dame Judith Hackitt report into building regulations and fire safety standards which was published last week, Rebecca Evans, the Welsh Government Housing Minister yesterday confirmed that plans to ban inflammable cladding on high-rise buildings in Wales will go out to public consultation. However, Bethan Sayed AM is concerned that residents in the private sector will have to cover the costs.

Welcoming the confirmation from the Welsh Government, Bethan Sayed, Plaid Cymru AM and shadow cabinet secretary for communities said,

“Dame Judith Hackitt’s report confirmed what many already suspected - that the current regime for fire safety in building regulations isn’t fit for purpose. It was also clear that cost considerations often trumped the safety and concerns of residents. Plaid Cymru is clear on this: Cost should never, ever, be a more important consideration than the risk and safety to the lives of people.

“There are clearly lessons to be learned and I’m pleased that the Welsh Government has come forward to announce that they will be taking forward many of the recommendations from the report in addition to announcing a complete ban on ACM cladding and other unsafe, combustible cladding materials. I understand that there is a legal requirement for consultation but I hope that this will not impede progress. We also welcome that the Housing Minister is taking a broad look at fire and building safety, not just for high rise buildings but all buildings. An aim to establish a more comprehensive and wide ranging regime of safety and high standards is one which we will welcome and engage with.

However, there remain some key questions to answer. The lack of clarity and potential difficulties facing those in the private sector is a major concern. Already, since the Grenfell Tower disaster, thousands in the registered social landlord sector and the private sector have lived under a cloud of worry and uncertainty. It’s a positive development that of those buildings in the social rented sector, necessary upgrades and cladding replacement is being carried out. But for those in the private sector, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight at this point.

“In some cases residents do not even know who is responsible for any fire safety upgrades. I understand that there are private sector tower blocks in Cardiff which do not have the necessary fire safety measures in place, let alone a clear answer as to who may be responsible for any upgrades recommended or mandated by the Welsh Government in the future. There are also residents in at least one development where there is currently a need to replace unsafe materials and conduct fire safety upgrades, but no answer in terms of who must pay, with a possibility that residents may have to cover the cost. There is also no answer from the Minister over whether or not any new measures will apply retroactively or only for new builds. It isn’t right for residents to live with such uncertainty and with no clear end date or resolution on the horizon.

 “I would like the Welsh Government to provide more clarity and engage with more urgency, with the private sector. They should carry out the necessary impact and cost assessments as soon as possible and provide a clear legal position so they can give their view to developers, insurance providers and residents. It isn’t acceptable that there is still a dearth of answers and information for those in the private sector after almost a year since the Grenfell disaster.”

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