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Recladding work slows on social housing blocks

The number of social residential blocks undergoing remedial work on non-compliant cladding has slowed in the past two months, according to government data.

Data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) revealed that 159 social housing blocks in England had been found to have non-compliant cladding as of the end of May.

The pace of remedial works to these buildings appears to have slowed over the past two months.

Between December and March, the number of blocks undergoing or completing work increased from 58 to 110.

However, just seven more buildings were added to this tally during April and May, taking the total to 117.

As of the end of May, 42 of the 159 blocks – around 25 per cent of the total – were yet to see remedial work start.

So far 10 blocks have had re-cladding works completed.

A MHCLG spokesman said: “We recently announced that we will fully fund the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding by councils and housing associations.

“This work takes time, and interim safety measures have been put in place.”

Olsson Fire & Risk UK director Simon Lay said he had noticed a change of pace in remediation work.

“What I saw was a very fast initial spurt to look at rapid risk assessment of buildings to try to establish what additional measures were needed in the interim period,” he said.

“But then there had been a slowing down after that in terms of getting work done, for a variety of reasons.

“The biggest delay seems to be capacity in the marketplace,” he added.

“Often it’s not about unclipping one panel and putting another panel on. These buildings tend to have hundreds or even thousands of individual panels that all need to be measured and made and installed.”

Mr Lay said there were instances where determining who should pay had slowed work down, but in many cases remediation has proceeded on the basis that liability for the cost will be decided later.

Though work had seemingly slowed, Mr Lay said higher-risk buildings had been prioritised for remedial works.

He said: “Some projects are a greater risk than others and we’re generally seeing that risk being recognised in the programmes put forward, with the most high-risk projects being advanced first.”

MHCLG’s data also showed that 138 private residential blocks have non-compliant cladding, but the progress of remedial works on these has not been published.

Mr Lay said he had not seen a difference in the speed of the response between the private and public sectors.

The total number of buildings in England found to have non-compliant cladding stands at 311 as of the end of May, and includes 14 public non-residential buildings.

MHCLG has been producing monthly updates on buildings with non-compliant cladding since last December.

Private and public landlords have been able to submit samples for fire testing by BRE for free since last June, with the cost of this testing covered by the government.

In May the prime minister announced £400m would be allocated to cover the cost of re-cladding social residential blocks.

Housing secretary James Brokenshire sent a warning to private landlords this week that the government could intervene if cost disputes delay re-cladding works.

Earlier this week Construction News revealed Mace was spending £100,000 on fire safety officers in some buildings while it assessed “remedial measures” for the installed cladding.

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