Cladding in Wales: Fire safety defects must now be repaired by housing developers

Major housing developers have now agreed to carry out fire safety works on medium and high rise buildings across Wales. Credit: PA

A plan to improve fire safety issues in medium and high rise buildings across Wales has been announced by the Welsh Government.

It means all major building developers will now need to carry out fire safety works on medium and high-rise buildings, after they signed a pact to fix unsafe apartment blocks in Wales.

Climate Change Minister Julie James said the programme will make residents feel "safe and secure in their homes".

The Welsh Government said the scheme will provide interest-free loans over a period of up to five years to assist developers with remediation works to address fire safety issues in buildings of 11 metres or more in Wales.

It has also said it will pay for remediation work on 28 privately owned buildings where the developer is unknown or has ceased trading.

More than £40m has also been made available to remediate a further 38 social sector buildings.

The Climate Change Minister says the plan is an 'ambitious' one for Wales.

The plan is part of the Welsh Government's cooperation agreement with Plaid Cymru and Julie James says it's an "ambitious" scheme to tackle the issue.

“I have always maintained the position that the industry should step-up to their responsibilities in matters of fire safety. 

“Developers should put right fire safety faults at their own cost or risk their professional reputation and their ability to operate in Wales in future.

“I am pleased that, today, developers have done the right thing and committed to remediate fire safety works on medium and high-rise buildings across Wales.

“Our approach in Wales has, and will continue to be, to work in collaboration with developers and I look forward to seeing work undertaken at pace.”

Plaid Cymru's Siân Gwenllian said: "While recognising there is still more to be done, I welcome today’s progress update and I am glad that the £375m of funding put in place as part of Plaid Cymru’s Co-operation Agreement with the Government will be used for the remediation of orphan buildings from this summer onwards, alongside other interventions to reduce fire safety issues."

After the Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017, which saw 72 people lose their lives, several apartment blocks in Wales were found to have fire safety issues.

The Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017 led many to question how safe high rise residential buildings are.

Welsh Cladiators, a campaign group which has been calling for the improvement of fire safety defects in residential buildings, has welcomed the news that developers will need to remediate the problems.

"It has been a long five years of worry for our members who now look forward to swift remediation, especially those left in limbo when developers are no longer around.

"For five years we've felt abandoned so we hope this will finally resolve the building safety crisis in Wales."

However opposition parties in the Senedd criticised the Welsh Government for the time it's taken to get the measure in place.

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, said: "The Labour Government have been incredibly slow to resolve the cladding issue blighting the lives of people across Wales for five years now since Grenfell.

"The announcement is welcome nonetheless and I am glad that Labour are finally following the UK Conservative Government’s example in dealing with this issue and has also followed our Welsh Conservative calls to take action.

"However, there needs to be some vital clarification as to whether ‘intent to sign’ actually means that developers have and will sign up to these measures.

"It seems the Minister jumped the gun in October and developers are only now coming onboard. Two developers, Bellway and St. Modwen, are missing from the statement today altogether so there needs to be urgent clarity there."

Meanwhile Jane Dodd, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said: "While I welcome today’s announcement there are still a significant number of areas where we lack clarity.

"Firstly, while several developers have signed the legally binding pact, others are still pending, why is this the case when they have already had months to sign on? Additionally, how can some of these developers sign the pact but still be engaged in court action against affected leaseholders?

"Secondly when it comes to the possibility of sanctions and restrictions against non-compliant developers we need to see the parameters in which this would be used, what is the criteria for escalation?

"The situation in Wales continues to lag behind Scotland and England and this isn’t acceptable."

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