Three-and-a-half years on from the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, there is still a real lack of clarity from the Government on how to tackle remaining cladding issues. Justice4Grenfell, the Fire Brigades’ Union, and other campaigners are right to continue to highlight dangerous building materials and need for stronger regulations.
Bristol residents remain understandably worried about if and when cladding will be replaced, who will be doing the work, and who will be footing the bill. In the meantime, around the country, concerning reports are emerging of leaseholders not being able to move or sell due to a shortage of certified inspectors; properties being mis-advertised amid a market crisis; freeholders refusing inspections; and forms being signed off by unqualified persons. This issue cuts across a number of national government departments – demanding both major attention and, most likely, several billion pounds worth of funding.
Full Council is due to consider a cross-party motion this afternoon on this subject, which has been published on the council’s website. Ahead of the meeting, I can confirm my support for the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign, calling for much needed additional support from national government.
While only national government currently has the resources to fund a comprehensive solution, options are being explored for how the council might support residents. This could include lobbying private building owners and housing associations, and looking at what scope exists for pre-occupation planning conditions to be withheld where there are outstanding issues in Bristol. The motion, strengthened by Cllr Nicola Beech, my Cabinet Member for Spatial Planning and City Design, also explores whether the Council might be able to use freeholder application fees to upskill and sustain a dedicated building control team to perform EWS1 assessments. There is also consideration of a training scheme for local councillors and encouraging these representatives to increase pressure on freeholders as needed.
For more information about improvements to fire safety in council houses and high-rise blocks, please visit the Council’s dedicated webpage.