Thursday 16th November 2023

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Written Statements
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Lee Rowley Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Lee Rowley)
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Today, for the first time, the Government are publishing comprehensive remediation data on the progress made to fix residential buildings over 11 metres with unsafe cladding in England.

The laws passed by this Parliament and the actions taken by this Government since 2021 have systematically broken impasses on thousands of buildings. Through the Building Safety Act 2022, we have delivered the most substantive reforms to building safety in nearly 40 years and leaseholders have been given significant legal protections from unfair remediation bills.

All residential buildings above 11 metres in England now have a pathway to fix unsafe cladding, either through a taxpayer-funded scheme or through a developer-funded scheme.

Following intensive talks with the home-building sector, we have a solution that will see industry take responsibility for fixing fire safety defects. Where developers or building owners are not currently funding cladding remediation, the Government have committed £5.1 billion to ensure that people are safe and feel safe in their homes.

Summary of progress

2023 has seen a step change both in the framework for, and progress of, remediation. Thousands of buildings have been identified and are now making progress on their journey. Significant additional pressure is being applied to those that are yet to begin. Developers are now clearly aware that they must step up to fix buildings that they are responsible for. And, month on month, more and more buildings are completing their remediation and allowing residents to move on with their lives after such a difficult period.

At the end of October 2023, the following progress can be reported:

1,512 buildings have now formally started remediation work (up from 749 at the end of 2022);

Of those, 703 have completed that work (57% above December’s figure of 448);

A further 2,285 buildings are preparing to begin works (up from 853 at the end of 2022). Every month will see further progress, supported by one of five initiatives that are underway:

the ACM Cladding Remediation fund, which has been open since 2018 and covers buildings with the most dangerous Grenfell-type cladding;

the Building Safety Fund, first opened in 2020 for buildings over 18 metres;

the Cladding Safety Scheme, which was fully opened in July for buildings between 11 and 18 metres and is also open to new applications for 18 metre+ buildings outside of London;

the more than 1,000 buildings for which developers have now assumed direct responsibility for remediating all life-critical fire safety defects, and;

the work underway by social housing providers to remediate buildings in their portfolios which require remediation.

Progress made by developers to fix buildings they are responsible for

The Government have always been clear that the primary responsibility for resolving any building safety issues lies with those responsible for the creation of the issues. Prior to 2023, only a small number of buildings were being remediated by the developer who originally constructed them. This has changed significantly since the spring, when 51 developers agreed to take full responsibility for all life-critical fire safety defects on at least 1,342 buildings, at an estimated cost of £2.7 billion.

Since the summer, the Government have required developers to submit regular updates on the progress on remediation of these buildings. For the first time, we are publishing information on how each developer is performing. Of the 1,342 buildings in scope, so far works have been completed on 262 and are underway on a further 211, and clear plans are in place to remediate a further 506. There are currently 363 buildings without a finalised remediation plan.

We are clear with developers that they need to work quickly and that leaseholders in each property need to have clear information about when further progress is likely to be made. I expect all developers to make significant progress on assessing their buildings by the next data release, confirming start dates for works, pushing forward with works, and updating residents and leaseholders. Should developers not move at a reasonable speed, we will take the necessary action. We also call on the freeholders of these buildings to co-operate with developers, by providing access for assessments and making sure the works can start as quickly as possible.

Government-supported schemes to remediate

Where no responsible developer can be identified, the Government now has three wide-ranging schemes open to address fire risks in buildings which have unsafe cladding. To prioritise those buildings with the most dangerous Grenfell-type cladding, the ACM Cladding Remediation Fund was opened in 2018. This was followed with the Building Safety Fund, which covers all relevant properties over 18 metres, in 2020. The Cladding Safety Scheme was opened in full in July 2023, after an eight-month pilot, to cover eligible buildings between 11 and 18 metres, as well as new applications for 18 metre+ buildings outside London.

Six years into the ACM scheme, almost all buildings with ACM cladding (96%) have now been fixed or are in the process of being fixed. There are 22 buildings yet to start ACM remediation. Two buildings are vacant and therefore do not pose a risk to resident safety. 15 buildings have start forecasts and four buildings without a start forecast have had local authority enforcement action taken against them. The remaining building has a remediation plan in place. We continue to work to reduce the remaining number through extensive work with the local enforcement authorities and direct contact with the responsible entities.

Progress within the Building Safety Fund is also gaining momentum, with almost half of eligible buildings either having started or completed works. The proportion of in-scope buildings with works completed has more than doubled since the beginning of the year, rising from 96 (8%) to 199 (20%). A further 27% of buildings now have works underway (up from 20% in December). We continue to work with partners in the Greater London Authority and Homes England with urgency to increase the number of buildings going through their remediation journey.

The full opening of the Cladding Safety Scheme in July 2023 marked the culmination of our extensive work to ensure that buildings between 11 and 18 metres have a pathway towards remediation. The pilot opened in November last year, and over 325 buildings from the pilot phase are progressing through the application system. The scheme opened in full in July this year; as of October 2023, there are almost 1,000 buildings at various stages of the application process. 48 buildings have now been issued or have signed grant funding agreements with Homes England, which is delivering the CSS on our behalf. Our focus now will be to extend support and raise its profile over the coming months for those buildings which have not yet got involved. Lease- holders and residents who believe their building should be in the scheme can inform Homes England, which will investigate each building, and pull them into the programme where appropriate.

Department officials are working with the regulator for social housing to assess progress of remediation in the social sector. I welcome their publication of the findings of a Fire Safety Remediation Survey that over 1,500 registered providers were asked to complete. Providers reported having a combined total of 15,405 11 metre+ buildings, of which 1,608 are known to require cladding remediation work. Remediation works are complete in 7% of these buildings; works have started in 25%; plans for works are in place in 37%; 32% of buildings still lack clear plans, and this must change. All providers should expect to provide quarterly updates on progress of remediation, and I have written to 14 larger local authorities who did not provide a return in response. The next survey will be commissioned shortly and future departmental publications will include data on a provider-by-provider basis. I expect all providers of social housing to identify, assess and remediate their buildings at pace, and we are working with the regulators to ensure that this happens.

Enforcement

Finally, building owners who are continuing to stall should know they are running out of time if they are trying to avoid being forced to act. Leaseholders and residents who have concerns about remediation progress for their building should report this to their local authority or fire and rescue service. Local authorities are enforcing against freeholders failing to remediate high-rise buildings at sufficient pace and, as an example, Newham Council has recently successfully prosecuted a freeholder for failure to comply with enforcement action under the Housing Act 2004. For the most egregious of cases, the recovery strategy unit is pursuing companies and individuals through any means necessary, and currently has 19 legal cases underway against freeholders.

The publication of broader remediation data today is another step in the journey to ensure further transparency on the achievements to date, the work underway and, crucially, where more focus is needed. We are determined to both confirm progress where it is happening and shine a light on those parts of the sector where further attention is needed.

Ensuring buildings are safe requires a significant, involved and prolonged effort. The pace of remediation has, happily, stepped up significantly over recent months but we recognise there remains much more to do. We remain committed to making further progress in the months ahead.

[HCWS41]