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Developers who fail to put right fire risk homes must face penalties, says MS

25 Jul 2023 4 minute read
Photo Welsh Government

Martin Shipton

The Welsh Government should spell out what enforcement action it will take against developers who fail to remediate homes that pose a potential fire risk, a Senedd Member has said.

Thousands of apartment owners and tenants have had their lives blighted since in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy their homes were identified as in need of remediation.

More than 70 people died when fire spread rapidly through the 24-storey block of flats in west London because the building had dangerously combustible cladding.

In Wales, some homeowners have been waiting for years for necessary work to be done, sometimes facing resistance from the developers who built apartment blocks with defective cladding and other structural faults. With the work outstanding, the value of their properties has plummeted.

South Wales Central MS Rhys ab Owen put a series of questions about the issue to Climate Change Minister Julie James:

* What steps will the Minister take to ensure that developers who are liable for remediation plans do not escape legal exposure through avoiding carrying out private registered provider surveys via publicly available specification 9980s?

* What will the Welsh Government do to prevent the process of remediation being slowed down by developers failing to fulfil the timetables set out in their self-remediation contracts?

* What assurances will the Minister provide to renters of dangerous properties who may have the costs of risk assessments, and the solutions to these risks, pushed on them by developers?

* Which development companies have already begun to reimburse their leaseholders due to the self-remediation contracts they hold with the Welsh Government?

* Will the Welsh Government be appropriately penalising companies that have failed to provide a meaningful remediation plan and timetable for their leaseholders, as dictated by the contracts they signed with the Government?

* Will the Minister respond to the Redrow leaseholders who have not yet received a response from the government, two weeks on, as to when they can expect Redrow to provide them a remediation plan and timetable?

* When is the guidance from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and the Welsh Government for lenders on mortgages for properties with fire-safety concerns due to be published?

Work plans

Ms James responded: “All developers who have signed our contract are engaging with us and have returned their work plans.

“Our contract includes the requirement for the Welsh Government to monitor progress. Should developers fail to meet the terms agreed in their contract, including failure to provide work plans and timescales, the necessary legal steps to address this will be undertaken.

“Our contract also sets out the standards to be adopted in respect to works. This includes the requirements for a PAS 9980 standard to be adopted, which is relevant to those buildings with external wall systems (cladding) present.

“Where the developer is undertaking the works as part of our contract, they will need to undertake the PAS 9980 assessment and any other necessary assessment works to develop their remediation plans.

“The Welsh Government has already paid for survey work to take place. In addition, the contract sets out developer obligations to undertake any further assessment work at their own cost.

“Persimmon have reimbursed some leaseholders for costs incurred as a result of fire safety issues. I also understand other developers we are engaging with, such as Westmark, have also confirmed they have reimbursed costs. I have encouraged other developers to follow this example.

“Officials have issued a response to Redrow leaseholders who wrote to us about the contract. Officials have also recently met with Redrow representatives on this matter.

“The Royal Institution for Chartered Surveyors are working on the Guidance and will publish this as soon as possible. My officials are working closely with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors on this matter.”

Better safety

Rhys ab Owen said: “Since my election in May 2021 I have been campaigning on this issue. I have worked consistently with residents, campaigners, and elected representatives from other parties to ensure better safety in high rise homes.

“I welcomed the commitment to reform building safety in the Cooperation Agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government, but we must have more action for the residents who feel trapped in their own homes.

“The developers must keep to the deadlines of contracts they have signed to remediate and make flats safe. I’m calling on the Welsh Government to explain what enforcement actions they intend to take to ensure the safety of my constituents.”

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8 months ago

Da iawn Rhys, keep up the pressure on this matter. Too many of our ministers love swanning around making pronouncements but fail abysmally to ensure that existing rules are enforced. It would be interesting to learn how some of these high rise developments were allowed to go ahead with cladding and other materials not up to specification required.

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