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Sun December 16 2018

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Councils given power to strip ACM cladding off privately owned blocks

30 Nov The government has finally lost patience with private landlords’ failure to replace combustible cladding on high-rise residential buildings and given local authorities power to intervene.

ACM cladding contributed substantially to the extraordinary speed and spread of the Grenfell Tower fire
ACM cladding contributed substantially to the extraordinary speed and spread of the Grenfell Tower fire

Across England there are 289 private sector buildings over 18 metres in height that have been fitted with aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding systems unlikely to meet current Building Regulations guidance.  Remediation work has yet to start on 249 of these buildings, although plans are in place or in development for 147 of them, according to latest data (9/11/18) from the Ministry of Housing’s Building Safety Programme.

But that still leaves 102 private tower blocks where remediation plans remain unclear.

The dangers of ACM cladding were revealed when the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block in west London caught fire on 14th June 2017, causing 72 deaths.

The government has now confirmed, following consultation, that it is banning combustible materials on new high-rise homes and giving support to local authorities to carry out emergency work to remove and replace unsafe ACM cladding. Regulations have been laid in Parliament to give legal effect to the combustible materials ban announced in the summer. The ban means combustible materials will not be permitted on the external walls of new buildings over 18 metres containing flats, as well as new hospitals, residential care premises, dormitories in boarding schools and student accommodation over 18 metres.

In addition, local authorities have been given government backing to carry out emergency work on affected private residential buildings with unsafe ACM cladding. They are promised government money, if they need it, to do the work, and then will recover the costs from building owners.

The government is already fully funding the replacement of unsafe ACM cladding on social sector high-rise buildings. Of the 159 social sector residential buildings over 18 metres with ACM cladding, 28 have finished remediation, 87 have started remediation, 40 have a remediation plan in place but remediation works haven’t started, and plans are in train for a further four buildings.

Secretary of state for housing, communities & local government James Brokenshire said: “Everyone has a right to feel safe in their homes and I have repeatedly made clear that building owners and developers must replace dangerous ACM cladding. And the costs must not be passed on to leaseholders. My message is clear – private building owners must pay for this work now or they should expect to pay more later.”

However, the Fire Protection Association (FPA) felt that restricting the ban on combustible materials onyl to tall buildings was a mistake.

FPA managing director Jonathan O’Neill, said: "The Fire Protection Association welcomes the announcement, but we would urge MHCLG to urgently consider banning the use of combustible materials for all high risk occupancies regardless of the height of the building. We also believe they need to build on the work we published yesterday and to consider the toxicity of all building materials in the case of fire."

MPU

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