Government to fund £200m removal of Grenfell Tower-style cladding from private high-rises

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Damon Green

Unsafe Grenfell Tower-style cladding on private residential high-rise blocks will be replaced at the cost of around £200 million funded by the Government, the Ministry of Housing has announced.

The money will be made available to remove aluminium composite material cladding from around 170 privately owned high-rise buildings across the UK.

It comes after almost two years of inaction from some building owners, some of whom tried to make leaseholders foot the bill.

The fire at Grenfell cost the lives of 72 residents. Credit: PA

Mark Bottrell, a resident whose home is covered in flammable cladding, told ITV News: "You go to bed at night knowing that if there was a fire it could go through the building really quickly.

"You've also got the fact that you can't sell the flats. They're worthless. One of the residents had a valuer around the other day and the valuation said your flat is worth nothing."

Cladding was one of the chief reasons the fire at Grenfell Tower spread so rapidly. Some 72 died in the blaze that engulfed the west London tower block in June 2017.

  • Watch Communities Secretary James Brokenshire outline the announcement

Campaigners welcomed the news, with Grenfell United, a group of survivors and the bereaved, saying it offered hope to people feeling at risk at home.

Building owners will have three months to claim the funds, with one condition being that they take “reasonable steps” to recover the costs from those responsible for the cladding’s presence.

Tory peer Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, said the announcement would come as an “enormous relief” to leaseholders but that it would be wrong if taxpayers ended up out of pocket.

He said: “It is therefore right that, while the Government has committed to cover the cost temporarily, it has also said it will do everything in its power to ensure those responsible for the installation of unsafe cladding and insulation on their buildings, or indeed their insurers, eventually pay the full cost for its removal and replacement.”

Prime Minister Theresa May had earlier said it was of "paramount importance" that everybody is able to feel and be safe in their homes.

She added: “That’s why we asked building owners in the private sector to take action and make sure appropriate safety measures were in place.

“And we’ve seen a number of private building owners doing the right thing and taking responsibility, but unfortunately too many are continuing to pass on the costs of removal and replacement to leaseholders.

“Today, I can confirm we will now be fully funding the replacement of cladding on high-rise private residential buildings so residents can feel confident they are secure in their homes.”

Campaigners have been pressing the Government for action for almost two years. Credit: PA

Grenfell United said: “Today’s announcement offers hope to people in dangerous blocks that the nightmare they have been living for nearly two years is almost over.

“This result is a testament to residents themselves, in social and private blocks, who refused to be ignored. The truth is we should never have had to fight for it.

“It is not a quick fix so we ask the Government to also consider what financial support can be put in place while residents continue with night watches and wait for remediation works to start.”

The campaign to see the material stripped from all residential blocks has won support from celebrities including Adele and Stormzy.

Latest Government figures show that 166 private buildings out of 176 identified with the cladding after the Grenfell fire have yet to start removing the material.

Developers and building owners, including Pemberstone, Aberdeen Asset Management, Barratt Developments, Fraser Properties, Legal & General, Mace and Peabody, were highlighted for having fully borne the costs for their buildings.

The Government has already committed to funding replacement of the cladding in the social sector. Currently 23 blocks are still covered in it.

Building owners will be able to register for the fund by early July.