U.K. to Set Out Plan for Fire-Risk Apartment Cladding Crisis

The U.K. government will set out its plans for stripping cladding from potentially unsafe apartment blocks, more than three years after a fire at London’s Grenfell Tower killed 72 people.

Reports suggest Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick will set out a package of measures amounting to billions of pounds when he makes a statement to the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Ministers announced a 1.6 billion pound ($2.2 billion) “safety fund” to remove dangerous cladding last year but Jenrick is expected to announce additional support on top of this. The price for the repairs could be as high as 15 billion pounds, according to a parliamentary committee last June.

Pressure has been growing on the government and homebuilders to do more for people caught up in the safety scandal that has been brewing since 2017, when cladding on the Grenfell Tower in West London caught fire, killing 72 and revealing the widespread use of similar materials across the U.K..

So far, a large chunk of the financial burden has been placed on leaseholders, some of whom are already paying for an array of safety measures, including 24-hour security and installing fire alarm systems. Members of both the U.K.’s major political parties have called for the private sector to take more financial responsibility.

Persimmon Plc, the U.K.’s biggest homebuilder, has made a provision of 75 million pounds ($104 million) in its 2020 results for any necessary repair work on 26 buildings it developed that may be affected by the issue, it said in a statement Wednesday.

Conservative MP Peter Bottomley said ministers should accept leaseholders are “not responsible” for unsafe cladding.

The government should “provide the money so that remediation can take place, for buildings to be made safe,” he told BBC radio. “They need to be made sale-able which means you can’t have liabilities hanging around the necks of individual leaseholders”.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Breakfast that “substantial help” is already available, but acknowledged “needs are very high.”

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