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Government bans combustible cladding and permits LAs to strip materials from private towers

The UK government has banned combustible cladding on new high-rise residential buildings and given new powers to councils to rid private buildings of unsafe materials and recover the costs from landlords.

Government bans combustible cladding and permits LAs to strip materials from private towers
Image credit: © REX/Shutterstock

Housing secretary James Brokenshire made the announcement in Parliament yesterday (29 November), when the regulations were laid to give legal effect to the ban made public earlier this year.

The use of combustible materials is now prohibited on the external walls of tower blocks taller than 18 m, as well as new hospitals, residential care homes, dormitories in boarding schools and student accommodation over 18 m.

Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of the UK’s building and fire regulations, commissioned by the government after the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, did not recommend any specific product bans. 

Hackitt said: “If we only fix the cladding issue, we could only guarantee there would not be another fire caused by cladding. Unless we fix the system, we have no way of guaranteeing we couldn’t have another catastrophic high-rise fire caused by something else.” 

However, following a consultation on the matter, the government decided to take forward a ban on combustible materials in the inner leaf, insultation and cladding used in external wall systems of tower blocks and other buildings. 

Brokenshire also said yesterday he was acting to speed up the replacement of unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on existing buildings, like that used on the Grenfell Tower.  

He pledged to give local authorities “full backing, including financial support if necessary” to removal ACM cladding from private buildings. They will be able to recover the costs from landlords, ensuring that buildings will be made permanently safe without delay. 

“I am laying an addendum to the housing health and safety rating system operating guidance. This addendum provides specific guidance on the assessment of high-rise residential buildings with unsafe cladding. This will help local authorities to make robust hazard assessments and boost their ability to take decisive enforcement action,” Brokenshire said. 

“Alongside this the joint inspection team, hosted by the Local Government Association, will provide support to local authorities in their assessments and give them confidence to take enforcement action.

“I am also writing to local authorities with buildings where the owner refuses to remediate unsafe ACM cladding, to offer them our full support to take enforcement action. This will include financial support where this is necessary for the local authorities to carry out emergency remedial work.

“Where financial support is provided, local authorities will recover the costs from the building owner. 

“I am determined that building owners will not evade their responsibilities and that local authorities will have all the support they need to ensure that all high-rise buildings with unsafe ACM cladding are made permanently safe for the people who live in them.” 

A total of 159 social-sector residential tower blocks have been identified as using ACM cladding, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Cladding on 76% of these buildings has either been replaced (22 buildings) or is in the process of being removed (99). Corrective action plans are in place for the remaining 38 buildings.

There are also 295 private-sector structures that are cladded in ACM, including 205 residential blocks. Statistics show that replacement work has finished on just ten of these buildings and remediation work is underway on a further 26.

The government is fully funding the replacement of unsafe ACM cladding on social sector buildings above 18 m. 

In October IOSH Magazine reported that £248m had been allocated to 12 local authorities and 31 housing associations to fund the replacement of ACM on 135 buildings.

Keeley Downey is assistant editor of IOSH Magazine

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