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UK government signals change of approach on replacement of cladding

The UK government has signalled a change in its approach to assessing the risk posed by cladding on buildings below 18 metres, and who should pay for remediation.

In a statement to MPs Michael Gove, minister for levelling up, housing and communities set out a range of measures that the government will introduce in relation specifically to cladding.

Those measures include withdrawal of the consolidated advice note on the assessment of fire risk associated with external wall systems, which may reduce the number of buildings which require cladding repairs.

Gove said the government would indemnify building assessors to ensure remediation is only being advised where it is considered necessary to remove a threat to life and will commit an additional £27 million to fund new fire alarms to stop the practice of ‘waking watches’, or in-person fire safety patrols.

The government will also work with insurers to bring down premiums, put the Hackitt Review recommendations into law and bring the Fire Safety Act 2021 into force as soon as possible.

To assist leaseholders with the costs of remediation, amendments will be tabled to the Building Safety Bill to extend the limitation period to 30 years in some instances, with retrospective effect.

Gove said the government would also establish a dedicated team called ‘Operation Apex’ which will investigate developers and building owners in connection with unsafe cladding.

His statement in the House of Commons came as Gove wrote to industry leaders, giving them a deadline of early March to agree to contribute the £4 billion required to cover the outstanding cost of remediating unsafe cladding on buildings that stand between 11 and 18 metres tall.

He also asked them to fund the replacement of cladding deemed to be unsafe, on buildings over 11 metres that they played a role in developing and to provide comprehensive information on all buildings over 11 metres which have historic features deemed to be unsafe, that they played a part in constructing in the last 30 years.

Gove told MPs that he plans to convene a meeting within the next few weeks to encourage developers to act, warning that if they do not comply they will face action.

He said: “We will scrap proposals for loans and long-term debt for leaseholders in medium-rise buildings and give a guarantee that no leaseholder living in their own flat will pay a penny to fix dangerous cladding.

“Working with members of both Houses, we will look to bring a raft of leaseholder protections into law through our Building Safety Bill. And we will restore much needed common sense on building safety assessments, ending the practice of too many buildings being declared unsafe,” he added.

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