Sheffield campaigners sceptical about Government promise to make developers fix cladding crisis

Campaigners said the Government still has a long way to go to protect leaseholders as it promises to make developers fix the cladding crisis.

Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 4:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 4:59 pm

The Government gave the industry a deadline of March to present a fully funded plan of action in an announcement this week.

Michael Gove, secretary of state for Levelling Up, warned industry that he will take all steps necessary to make it happen including restricting access to government funding and future procurements, using planning powers, pursuing companies through the courts and imposing a solution in law.

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Louise Haigh MP.

In the letter to the industry, he said: “It is neither fair nor decent that innocent leaseholders, many of whom have worked hard and made sacrifices to get a foot on the housing ladder, should be landed with bills they cannot afford to fix problems they did not cause.”

He added there will be further measures to protect leaseholders and a package of measures to ‘restore common sense’ to the industry and end ‘buildings being declared as unsafe when they are not’.

Louise Haigh, MP for Sheffield Heeley, said: “It is unbelievable that we’ve had to wait for more than four years to see any progress on the cladding scandal that led to the horrific Grenfell tragedy. Today’s announcement will be welcomed by some tenants but it leaves many questions unanswered. And with this Government’s track record in this area and their failure to deliver a comprehensive plan, people will not be holding their breath for them to deliver what they’re promising.

Sheffielders who have campaigned to protect leaseholders from skyrocketing costs said the Government's promise to make developers fix the cladding crisis is a step in the right direction.

“There are still many questions that the Government needs to answer, including what is their plan to resolve the backlog in Building Safety fund applications. How will they persuade developers to do the right thing and stop freeholders passing on the costs to residents. And what is their plan to rectify non-cladding related defects that pose fire risks such as the need for fire breakers that blight many residents.

“Today’s statement is a start, but the Government has a long way to go if they are to protect all leaseholders, in law, from all historic defects. That must be their ultimate goal.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “More than four years on from the horrors of Grenfell, many people are still trapped in dangerous homes. This announcement is a welcome step in the right direction. Developers played a part in this cladding scandal so it’s only right they help to fix it.

“The government must act to make buildings safe as quickly as possible, but it must remember that safety and supply are both critical. As MPs including the former Conservative housing secretary made clear, funding shouldn’t come from the social housing budget. Right now, 126,000 children are homeless in England and many are waiting for a social home. The government and developers must get on with building the new social homes needed to fix the housing emergency once and for all.”

Sheffield MP Clive Betts who also chairs the Local Government, Communities and Housing Select Committee was cautious about this announcement but said it was a step in the right direction.

He said: “Any additional funding from the Government to tackle this crisis is welcome, but I have to say this further £4 billion does fall somewhat short of the £15 billion that experts have said is needed. As confusing is the fact £4 billion was not mentioned once in the actual speech the Secretary of State gave, so it is unclear where the money will be coming from, if at all.

“While we do not know where this money is from, what we do know is that this announcement does not cover social housing. If the social housing sector is not included in this announcement it will be denied the support and funding it needs to rectify these past problems, which only exacerbates another crisis the Government faces on the lack of social housing.

"It is simply the case that if this money is not provided by developers then, as the treasury has seemingly ruled out any new funding and taxes, this can only mean further cuts to already promised expenditure on social housing and maintenance. What we are seeing in this announcement is social housing being offered up to pay for the mistakes and failures of big property developers.”