The Housing Secretary has announced a £3.5m fund to tackle unsafe cladding as well as a new tax on the residential development sector which will be introduced in 2022, to help pay for combustible-material remediation on tower blocks.
Tom Pemberton, partner at law firm Goodman Derrick, said the announcement is welcome, but leaves many questions unanswered. He added: “In particular, the new funding will only cover the cost of replacing unsafe cladding systems on high-rise buildings over 18m high. It will therefore not provide any cover at all for lower-rise buildings, and it seems that it will not cover the cost of other essential work to make buildings of any height safe. For example, a fire risk is often presented by faulty smoke ventilation systems and combustible insulation inside the external wall (not the external cladding). These elements need to be signed off by accredited fire safety professionals before properties become mortgageable and marketable.
“The reality is therefore that those hit hardest by this issue to date will continue to suffer months of uncertainty and anxiety until an acceptable solution is found which addresses all the wider safety issues. Developers, in the meantime, will no doubt question why they are being singled out to pay the costs of the new scheme by paying a levy on their future high-rise schemes, in addition to a tax on them which the government hopes to yield £2bn over a decade.”