Almost 10,000 buildings 'unsafe' with danger cladding five years on from Grenfell

10 June 2022, 08:31 | Updated: 10 June 2022, 15:36

Nick Ferrari corners Michael Gove on cladding numbers

Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

There are still at least 9,793 tower blocks in England that are 'unsafe' due to dangerous cladding and other associated fire risks, according to government figures obtained exclusively by LBC.

Just days away from the five year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower Tragedy in which 72 people lost their lives, hundreds of thousands of people are still trapped in a 'cladding crisis,' with unsafe homes that they can’t sell.

LBC obtained the figures after Michael Gove was unable to tell Nick Ferrari how many buildings still have flammable cladding on them.

The shocking figures reveal the extent of the cladding crisis, and show at least 903 buildings over 18m tall still have cladding systems that need to be removed.

While a study last year predicted between 6,220 and 8,890 mid-rise residential buildings (11-18m in height) require remediation, partial remediation or mitigation works, officials still don't know, how many buildings four storeys or lower could be at risk.

Tiago Alves escaped from Grenfell Tower with his parents and younger sister.

He told LBC that by not knowing the full figures, Mr Gove exposed a complacency in Government, and that if another Grenfell happens, blame should be laid at the Government's feet.

"Yes, the same way that the Lakenhall House fire [in which 6 people died] was almost like the precursor to Grenfell, Grenfell might be the precursor to something even bigger.

"And if the Government doesn't take any action, then we're going to be looking back on this moment and realise they could have done so much more."

Matt Hodges-Long, Co-Founder of Building Safety Register, an organisation campaigning for fire and life safety in all high risk buildings has called the 9,790 figure a 'scandal' but is worried the true number is even higher.

"I think there is an issue with having the wherewithal to actually conduct a survey of that type.

"But also the political willingness of understanding what that would mean when they actually saw the numbers - so I think there is an element of burying heads in sand."

Sadiq Khan said: "Absolutely shocking. It’s completely unacceptable that residents feel unsafe in their homes because the Government has failed to complete a single recommendation from the first phase of the Grenfell inquiry.

"Lives are still at risk. They can’t delay action any longer."

Michael Gove was unable to put a figure on the number of tower blocks that still have dangerous cladding when challenged on LBC yesterday.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast on LBC, the secretary of state for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities was asked how many buildings still had flammable cladding on them.

Mr Gove he said he could only provide figures for the number of buildings over 18 metres tall, which were still clad with the most dangerous product; ACM – the same cladding as was on Grenfell Tower.

But that’s only going to be a tiny proportion of the overall crisis, as 486 high rise buildings have been found to have ACM cladding.

By contrast, there have been 2,824 applications from high rise buildings alone, for Government cash from the Building Safety Fund to fix buildings with non-ACM problems.

Of those, 943 buildings are proceeding with an application for funding, just 254 buildings have started remediation work and only 30 have completed the job. It doesn't even cover buildings below 18m.

Mr Gove told Nick: “A significant number, we’ve reduced the number of buildings that are over 18 metres high that have that cladding, and there’s still much more work to do on those which are at the 11-18 metre area, which is also a cause for concern,”

“I’ve concluded negotiations with developers, we’ve got £4bn out of them in order to speed this up.

“Remediation work has been far too slow but at last it’s accelerating.”

Read more: Right-to-buy revolution but Gove can't say how people on benefits can afford a house

But when pushed again he said he didn’t “have the numbers in front of me”.

He added: “We can give you the exact figures on the number of buildings over 18 metres that have had ACM cladding removed, which is the worst type of cladding.”

And asked again about figures for buildings that still do have cladding, he said: “We can give you those figures.”

Tuesday marks five years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy in which 72 people lost their lives.

People have shared their own stories online after Gove was stumped by Nick’s question.

One person posted: “Today it's 2y 9m since our defective building was wiped out in a fire. The rebuild (our equivalent of 'remediation') hasn't even started, so probably 2yrs to go.

"The developer still hasn't come to the negotiating table with us to address compensation for residents' losses."

Another wrote: "Building hasn't gone public, but London, under 18m, ongoing since December 2019, developer agreed to pay since Christmas 2021 but huge delays due to PI insurance. Hopeful to start work on site autumn (maybe), work will take 12 months(ish). Looking at finishing in 2023 (maybe)."

A resident of Vista Tower in Stevenage posted: “We have waited since August 2019 when we found out the building was unsafe for work to start and have no schedule at all.

"Just a provisional bill for £208,000 per leaseholder in our service charge."

Another person said: "SE London, sub-11m, timber cladding and missing cavity barriers. No funding, excluded from all support measures, at a complete impasse."

The leader of the Fire Brigades' Union has said he's not hopeful the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire will lead to significant change.

Matt Wrack told LBC he feels no one is learning lessons and the process of removing dangerous cladding has been painfully slow.

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