Gove sets March deadline for developers to come up with £4bn cladding plan

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Developers must agree a £4 billion plan to fix dangerous cladding on low-rise flats by early March or risk new laws forcing them to act, Housing Secretary Michael Gove has said.

The Cabinet minister threatened that he is “prepared to take all steps necessary” to fix the “broken system” in a letter to the industry ahead of detailing the plans on Monday.

Potential action also includes restricting access to Government funding and future procurements, the use of planning powers, and pursuing firms through the courts.

The proposals to alleviate the scandal that has trapped leaseholders in unsafe and unsellable homes come more than four years after the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, in which 72 people were killed.

Leaseholders in buildings between 11m (36ft) and 18m (59ft) tall will no longer have to take out loans to cover the costs of remediation work despite no new money coming from the Treasury.

Instead, Mr Gove told developers to agree to start contributing this year to cover the “full outstanding cost”, which he estimates to be £4 billion.

The Housing Secretary is expected to meet with cladding campaigners on Monday morning before detailing the plan in the Commons.

In the letter to the residential property developer industry being sent on Monday, Mr Gove set a deadline of “early March” to publicly accept his ultimatum and provide a “fully-funded plan of action”.

“Our home should be a source of security and pride. For too many of the people living in properties your industry has built in recent years, their home has become a source of misery. This must change,” he wrote.

Mr Gove said he is sure they are also committed to fixing the “broken system” but warned he is “prepared to take all steps necessary to make this happen”, including “the imposition of a solution in law if needs be”.

The commitments also include that they must “fund and undertake” all works on buildings over 18m which they played a role in developing.

They were also ordered to provide comprehensive information on all buildings taller than 11m that have fire-safety defects and they helped construct in the last 30 years.

Campaigners tentatively welcomed the plans as they trickled out over the weekend, but developers said they should not be the only ones responsible for the costs.

Grenfell fire anniversary
Grenfell Tower in west London (Steve Parsons/PA)

A spokesman for the End Our Cladding Scandal said they were “cautiously optimistic” over the plans but noted the “devil is in the detail”, with the letter saying the measures do not “extend to non-cladding” costs.

“It’s a welcome step in the right direction but there’s still a long road to travel,” he said.

Stewart Baseley, the executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, accepted that leaseholders should not have to pay for remediation, but said builders should not cover the costs alone.

“Whilst house builders are committed to playing their part, there are many other organisations involved in the construction of affected buildings, including housing associations and local authorities,” he said.

“Specifications for buildings would have been in accordance with building regulations set by Government at the time of construction.

“As well as developers and Government, other parties should be involved in remediation costs, not least material manufacturers who designed, tested and sold materials that developers purchased in good faith that were later proved to not be fit for purpose.”

Shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy said “promises are no substitute for a plan” as she urged the Government to go further to protect leaseholders from the costs.

“We must have legally binding protection for leaseholders in law to defend them from the costs of these appalling failures, a fixed deadline which will bring an end to this nightmare and a Secretary of State who is able to marshal the resources and political will to take on the might of big money interests – and win,” the Labour MP said.

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