The developer behind Greenwich’s New Capital Quay development should be paying for its flammable cladding to be replaced, the Housing Secretary has told Parliament.
James Brokenshire was responding to to a question from Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook, who raised the plight of New Capital Quay’s 2,000 residents in the House of Commons on Thursday.
The 12-block development, next to Deptford Creek, features a similar material to that used at Grenfell Tower, north Kensington, where 71 people died in a fire in June 2017. A third of homes there are occupied by tenants of social landlord Hyde Housing.
Developer Galliard, which owns the blocks through a subsidiary, is in dispute with the insurer, the National House Building Council (NHBC) – which inspected the work when it was completed – over who pays to replace the cladding. In the meantime, a “waking watch” is in place, where fire wardens make round-the-clock inspections.
Residents believe it is the largest housing development in the UK affected by the need to replace unsafe cladding.
The resulting stand-off has left residents worried about their safety as well as the prospect of having to pay towards the replacement of the cladding themselves, said to be up to £40 million and the £1.25m annual cost of employing fire wardens.
They have been also pressing Greenwich Council to take more action on the issue.
After a review of the Grenfell Tower fire, the Government said it would only consult on a ban on the use of flammable cladding, rather than blocking it immediately. It has also announced it will meet the cost of removing cladding on blocks owned by councils and housing associations.
Brokenshire also threatened private landlords that he would consider taking action if they did not pay for their own cladding to be removed.
“We have called on building owners in the private sector to follow the example set by the social sector and not pass costs on to leaseholders,” he said.
“I find it outrageous that some private sector landlords have been slow to co-operate with us on this vital work. I am calling on them to do the right thing. If they do not, I am not ruling anything out at this stage.”
When asked by Pennycook about the New Capital Quay situation, Brokenshire – who is also MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup – cited the example of the Cityscape block in Croydon, where residents had been threatened with a £2m bill before developer Barratt stepped in to pay for it.
“I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has made it clear that he will rule nothing out when it comes to forcing action on private freehold developments such as New Capital Quay in Greenwich. That represents progress,” Pennycook asked.
“May I test whether he understands the urgent need to break the impasse on such developments? Leaseholders are living with not only the anxiety about the long-term costs of remediation, but the daily mounting costs of interim fire safety measures and the fear that they live in homes that are still surrounded by lethal material,” he continued.
Brokenshire responded: “I understand the point that the honourable gentleman makes about the uncertainty and the cost of interim measures that may be put in place. One developer in Croydon has done the right thing: Barratt Developments has told residents of the Cityscape flats that it will cover fire safety and cladding costs. The message is that others should be doing the same.”
Samples from New Capital Quay, which opened between 2013 and 2014, were tested in the summer of 2017 as part of a national programme following the disaster in North Kensington. The samples were confirmed to be ACM, similar to that used at Grenfell Tower.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government says the ACM type 3 cladding used at New Capital Quay “presents a significant fire hazard on buildings over 18m with any form of insulation”.
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