'Devil is in the detail': Flat owners give cautious welcome to cladding climbdown

8 January 2022, 15:21

Cladding campaign groups have welcomed the news.
Cladding campaign groups have welcomed the news. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Ministers have been urged to go further in helping flat owners in England remove dangerous cladding - after plans emerged to pressure developers to cover works costing up to £4bn.

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In an apparent climbdown, Housing Secretary Michael Gove is expected to announce that leaseholders in buildings between 11 and 18 metres tall will no longer have to take out loans to cover the costs.

Instead, it has been reported the government will try to secure up to £4bn from developers towards the costs.

It had already promised to pay to remove cladding in taller buildings.

If ministers are unable to secure the funding from developers it may come out of the housing department's budget, it has been reported.

Only leaseholders in buildings taller than 18 metres can currently access grants to replace unsafe cladding under measures introduced in England after the Grenfell Tower fire killed 72 people in 2017.

The letter from Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke to Mr Gove, seen by BBC Newsnight, said loans for smaller buildings would be replaced by a "limited grant scheme".

"You may use a high-level 'threat' of tax or legal solutions in discussions with developers as a means to obtaining voluntary contributions from them," it read.

Read more: Lawyer facing £70k cladding removal bill could go bankrupt and lose her job if told to pay

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"I am pleased to see that you acknowledge the principle that the taxpayer should not be on the hook for further costs of remediation. To reiterate, my approval of this new package for 11-18m buildings is therefore conditional on no further Exchequer funding."

A spokesman for the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign said the "devil is in the detail", with the letter saying the measures do not "extend to non-cladding" costs.

"It's a welcome step in the right direction but there's still a long road to travel," he said.

"It's not definite still if we are getting to the destination we want to get to but we are cautiously optimistic."

Read more: Residents stuck in ‘unsellable’ flats months after having Grenfell-style cladding removed

It has been widely reported that an announcement on the measures is expected on Monday.

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman did not dispute the contents of the leaked letter, but added: "We will not comment on speculation."