Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 June 2019

UK government urged to seize fire-risk blocks

Two years on from Grenfell Tower disaster, opposition says work has been slow to replace flammable material

Workers remove panels of external cladding from the facade of a London high-rise block in July 2017 following the Grenfell Tower blaze. AFP
Workers remove panels of external cladding from the facade of a London high-rise block in July 2017 following the Grenfell Tower blaze. AFP

High-rise residential blocks that are home to thousands of people in England should be confiscated by government if their private owners fail to remove flammable building materials within six months, according to Britain’s left-wing political opposition.

The Labour Party announced the proposal on Monday as Britain later this week marks two years since the Grenfell Tower fire in west London, which left 72 people dead and exposed wider building failures across the country.

The fire on June 14, 2017, was believed to have been caused by a faulty fridge freezer on the fourth floor of the 24-storey block that was home to close-knit and ethnically diverse community. The fire’s rapid spread has been linked to the use of aluminium composite material in rain-protecting cladding fitted to the outside of the building.

The fire raised questions about the use of cladding around the world.

In the aftermath of the fire, hundreds of buildings across England were found to have been fitted with similar materials but work to replace them has been slow within the private sector.

The flammable cladding has been replaced in about a third of social housing but only 11 of 175 privately-owned buildings have been repaired, according to the latest government figures. Seventy of the privately-owned blocks also don’t have firm plans in place for carrying out the work.

Housing secretary for England, James Brokenshire, accused private developers of “dragging their feet” after announcing a £200m package in May to make 20,000 high-rise homes safe after private developers refused to pay.

Research by The Sunday Times suggested that up to 196,000 residents of housing blocks could remain in danger from fire because of the delays.

Labour’s housing spokesman, John Healey, said: “Many private tower block owners have shown zero sign of replacing their Grenfell-style cladding, and Government ministers are letting them drag their feet.

“Enough is enough. Private block owners should be made to replace this dangerous cladding, or face councils taking over ownership of these buildings to get this vital safety work done.”

Updated: June 9, 2019 07:20 PM

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