The United Kingdom Advises Developers to Invest More in Safety Following a Fire Tragedy
The UK government has asked property developers to contribute more to the removal of combustible cladding from residential buildings, as part of revised plans to be unveiled Monday in the aftermath of the deadly Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove is seeking an estimated?4 billion ($5.4 billion, 4.8 billion euros) from industry to cover the cost of removing the hazardous cladding from buildings 11 to 18 metres tall with apartments.
It represents a U-turn on widely panned plans announced earlier this year, which would have required flat owners with hazardous material on their properties to apply for a low-interest loan to help cover the cost of removal.
Additionally, the government would have contributed billions.
The new proposals follow more than four years of inaction and wrangling with the property industry in the aftermath of the June 2017 west London high-rise fire that killed 72 people.
While a public inquiry into the tragedy continues, an official report blamed highly combustible cladding attached to the 24-story building as the “primary reason” the fire spread.
Grenfell was the deadliest domestic fire in the United Kingdom since World War II, trapping thousands of leaseholder owners of flats in other buildings in perilous situations due to their inability to afford the cladding removal.
Additionally, they have faced rising costs, ranging from increased insurance premiums to having to pay for round-the-clock fire marshal patrols in some cases.
Meanwhile, the majority of homeowners have been unable to sell or rent their homes due to mortgage lenders’ unwillingness to lend on the properties or other resulting restrictions.
Gove demanded developers and other firms involved in the industry provide a “fully-funded plan of action” to rectify their situations by “early March” in a letter revealed Monday.
The minister, who assumed responsibility for housing in September, warned that he was “prepared to take all necessary steps” to repair the “broken system.”
“We now need to ensure that everyone with a responsibility in the development and construction product manufacturing sectors steps up to the plate,” Gove told BBC radio ahead of the plans’ unveiling in parliament.
He continued by stating that the government is guided by three principles.
“First and foremost, the leaseholder should not be held accountable, secondly, the polluter should be held accountable in the broadest sense, and thirdly, we want to work with everyone involved to reach a constructive solution.”
Gove noted that companies that refuse to comply risk losing future government and other contracts.
He cited the case of Irish company Kingspan, whose products were used in the Grenfell Tower and whose sponsorship deal with Formula One team Mercedes was terminated last month due to the company’s association with the disaster.
The tie-up sparked outrage among Grenfell support groups, even drawing Mercedes’ star driver Lewis Hamilton into the fray.
“I intervened; I spoke with Toto Wolff at Mercedes,” Gove said Monday.
“He appreciated, not least because of Lewis Hamilton’s personal connection to the Grenfell United community, and thus the contract expired.”