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Victory for home owners as government picks up £200m tab to remove combustible cladding after Grenfell tragedy

PUBLISHED: 14:12 09 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:52 13 May 2019

New Providence Wharf towers at Blackwall built with cladding. Picture: Google

New Providence Wharf towers at Blackwall built with cladding. Picture: Google

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Hundreds if home-owners living in an east London housing complex with unsafe cladding have won their two-year battle to get the fire combustible material removed from their tower blocks two years after the Grenfell fire tragedy that killed 70 people.

Governmenrt funds now available to remove combustable cladding in all private tower blocks. Picture: GoogleGovernmenrt funds now available to remove combustable cladding in all private tower blocks. Picture: Google

The 559 households in the privately-owned New Providence Wharf development at Blackwall won't now have to pick up the tab to replace the cladding after the government agreed cash to make all tower blocks safe.

Poplar and Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick and Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs had both pressed the government to put pressure on developers to "do the right thing" and replace the aluminium composite material which had caused the 2017 Grenfell Tower blaze in west London to spread rapidly.

Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali also pushed government ministers during a Commons debate to take action "for immediate repairs".

Now Whitehall is coughing up £200m to make safe 170 privately-owned tower blocks across the UK.

Mayor John Biggs... pressed Housing Secretary to stop households footing the bill to remove combustable cladding. Picture: Mike BrookeMayor John Biggs... pressed Housing Secretary to stop households footing the bill to remove combustable cladding. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mayor Biggs commissioned fire safety work on all 900 council blocks in the East End after the Grenfell blaze, which found 10 tower blocks with similar combustible cladding including Whitechapel's 23-storey Denning Point in Commercial Street and six blocks at Bethnal Green's Cranbrook Estate off Roman Road, all built in the 1960s.

But the work didn't include private developments, leaving families in New Providence Wharf at risk.

The mayor wrote to housing secretary James Brokenshire in December urging him to step in to stop them being slapped with the £2.4m bill to replace the cladding, which had been legally installed when the Ballymore development was completed in 2004 with Tower Hamlets planning approval and met building regulations at the time.

He welcomed today's government intervention, but warned: "I would urge the government to look closely at whether their fund goes far enough. We are now in a better position, but there are issues including removing other cladding not covered by the fund that need to be considered."

The £200m fund to pay for the work was announced by the prime minister was welcomed by Grenfell United, the campaign coalition for the Grenfell families, which said it "offers hope to people in dangerous blocks that the nightmare is almost over".

MP Rushanara Ali said it was "a step in the right direction" but claimed it didn't go far enough.

She told the East London Advertiser: "The fund only pays for removing ACM cladding, meaning that high-risk buildings with other forms of dangerous cladding are not protected.

"There are thousands of people, including here in east London, living in flats with flammable cladding even two years after the Glenfell tragedy. We must make sure every building is safe."

Pressure on the government was stepped up when households in the New Providence Wharf development on the Thames waterfront were faced with bills for the cladding removal to be done.

Housing Secretary James Brokenshire told the BBC today: "Some developers are trying to pass on the costs to households by threatening them with bills. I am now calling 'time' on these delay tactics."

The London Assembly had called for the government funding a year ago. Its fire and emergency planning chair Andrew Dismore said today: "The government has finally put safety of residents first, two years after the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Building owners now need to act quickly and fix cladding that poses a risk to families."

Developers and private block owners can register by early July for funds to remove the cladding.

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