Dangerous buildings that are lower than 11 metres could be remediated and are set to be discussed on a case-by-case basis, housing minister Stuart Andrew (pictured) has said.
Andrew said in parliament on Wednesday that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities would commit to dealing with lower-rise buildings in need of remediation.
This marks the first time that the government has committed to looking at the issue of low-rise buildings that are in need of remediation.
Buildings of more than 18 metres can be remediated of dangerous materials through the £5.1bn Building Safety Fund (BSF), while housing secretary Michael Gove has pushed developers and cladding manufacturers to fund the remediation of buildings between 11 and 18 metres high.
Last week, Gove said £2bn had been raised to remediate medium-rise buildings.
But Andrew, who was appointed to the role in February, said the government must use “proportionality” to decide which low-rise buildings need remediation, and there were few lower-rise buildings requiring attention. He added that the government does not agree that leaseholder protections should cover lower-rise buildings.
“There is no systematic risk of fire with buildings below 11 metres,” he said in the House of Commons. “Low-rise buildings are therefore unlikely to need costly remediation to make them safe.”
He added that systems such as fire alarms were likely to be more appropriate and proportionate.
But, in response, Labour MP for Greenwich and Woolwich Matthew Pennycook said there was a need to financially support leaseholders caught up in dangerous lower-rise buildings, even if there were very few such buildings.
“I suspect that is almost certainly the case [that there are few dangerous lower-rise buildings], but all the more reason then to provide financial support to those blameless leaseholders who find themselves living in them, rather than leaving them without protection,” he said.
The construction industry is currently in discussions with Gove over funding remediation work for buildings between 11 and 18 metres in height. More than 35 developers have signed up to a pledge that will see them remediate any buildings they built over the past 30 years, without applying to government funds.
But Gove heavily criticised the Construction Products Association (CPA) and cladding manufacturers for not signing up to a similar scheme, saying he would do “whatever it takes” to ensure construction-product manufacturers are “held to account” for their part in contributing to the building-safety crisis.
The CPA cited too many “unknowns” over the scheme, including the number of affected dwellings, the need for an agreement for market valuations once works are completed and the level of work that remains unknown. It said there were “significant issues creating uncertainty and concern over who and how any fund could be established and maintained”.
Earlier this week, Clive Betts, Labour MP and chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, wrote to Gove seeking clarity on the agreement with developers. Betts also called on Gove to clarify how he is going to get other parts of the construction sector to pay their part of the fund required for the remediation job.
He added that the committee was “disappointed” that the CPA had not committed to the plan.