Housebuilders must ‘go further’ in remediation pledge

Housebuilders have not gone far enough in their commitments to remediate dangerous cladding, the government has said.

In a letter sent last week to housing secretary Michael Gove (pictured), the Home Builders Federation (HBF) suggested that housebuilders could fund the remediation of buildings over 11m tall that had been constructed since 2000.

The work would cover all “critical fire safety issues” on any buildings developed by the housebuilders themselves.

“We believe our members would commit not to use the BSF [Building Safety Fund] for remediation of buildings that they have developed since January 2000, including for buildings where they no longer retain a legal interest,” HBF executive chairman Stewart Baseley said.

Though they welcomed “the progress in our negotiations with the industry,” a spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said developers “have not yet gone far enough”.

“They must work with us intensively in the coming weeks to agree a fully funded plan to fix unsafe buildings,” they said. “We have been clear that if they do not, we will impose a solution.”

At present housebuilders and building owners can apply to the £5.1bn taxpayer-funded BSF, to fund remediation work of buildings over 18m. Under the terms of the proposed deal, building companies represented by the HBF would no longer use BSF cash and would reimburse any monies they had already claimed from the fund.

In January, Gove called on cladding suppliers and developers to contribute to a cladding remediation funding pot of £4bn, for buildings of between 11m and 18m. But he warned he would consider restricting access to government procurement and funding, or taking legal measures against individual companies, if they did not agree to his demands.

Earlier this month he said developers could face planning blocks if they fail to fix problem cladding on their properties, as a part of the Building Safety Bill currently making its way through parliament.

The dispute over funding remediation work was discussed in the House of Lords last week, with conservative peer Lord Blencathra warning penalties for housebuilders who did not conform to new building regulations were “ridiculously light” and disproportionate to their size.

He introduced two amendments into the Building Safety Bill which would introduce specific punishments for flouting the rules, rather than relying on laws normally used when dealing with smaller firms.

Currently magistrate courts can charge firms £200 for breaking the rules, but the new proposition would mean a company is fined the construction cost of the building they broke the law constructing, which would double for each month that they fail to remedy the issue.

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