Almost 70 buildings with dangerous cladding of the kind installed at Grenfell Tower are unlikely to be fully remediated until next year at the earliest, according to the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government.
MHCLG perm sec Jeremy Pocklington made the admission in a letter to members of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee that was published on the fourth anniversary of the west London tower-block fire that claimed 72 lives.
Pocklington was giving an update on progress to replace problem aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on 433 high-rise residential and publicly-owned buildings that were identified as having ACM like that added to the 1970s tower block in a flawed refurbishment completed in 2016.
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry has already established that the ACM cladding used in the refurbishment was the primary reason that fire engulfed the building so rapidly because the panels’ polyethylene cores acted as a source of fuel.
In his letter to the PAC, Pocklington said that as of the end of April, remediation work to remove and replace problem ACM cladding had got under way at 92% of the identified buildings, and had in some cases already been completed.
“By the end of 2021, it is currently estimated that 84% of identified buildings will have completed remediation,” he wrote.
“This estimate is based on information provided by building owners and agents and is expected to change as further information is received.”
The figure cited by Pocklington suggested that remediation work would not be complete in 16% of the high-rise residetial and publicly-owned buildings identified as having ACM. It would equate to around 69 structures.
Pocklington said that as of the end of April, enforcement action had either been taken against, or was in the process of being taken against, the owners or managers of 61 buildings with unsafe ACM cladding.
He added that MHCLG was extending the remit of the government-funded Joint Inspection Team set up to help councils with cladding-related issues so that they could assist with enforcement action against high-rise residential buildings with other forms of unsafe cladding.
“The minister for building safety, alongside senior local authority and regional leaders, continues to meet with building owners to urge them to prioritise the remediation of unsafe cladding,” Pocklington said.
“Where building owners fail to act, the department remains committed to updating a published list of corporate entities responsible for the remediation of unsafe ACM cladding where remediation works have yet to start on at least one of their buildings.”
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry is due to question MHCLG officials later this year as part of its investigations into the events that led up to 2017’s fire.
Oversight of industry practices, the quality of building regulations and learning from previous fires in high-rise residential buildings are likely to be significant lines of questioning in a module set to last several weeks.
Former ministers including 2010-15 communities secretary Lord Eric Pickles are expected to give evidence, while former MHCLG perm sec Melanie Dawes is understood to be among the officials who will also be helping the inquiry.