Leaders pledge to continue cladding remediation works during pandemic

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unsafe cladding, COVID-19,
© Andrew Hamilton

Local leaders have pledged to ensure vital safety work to replace unsafe cladding on high-rise buildings will continue during the COVID-19 crisis

Essential safety work to replace unsafe cladding on high-rise buildings will continue during the COVID-19 emergency, following a commitment from local leaders to housing secretary Robert Jenrick.

The Mayors of Greater Manchester, Sheffield City Region, London, Liverpool City Region and the West Midlands have pledged their commitment to ensure unsafe cladding remediation will continue, where necessary social distancing rules are being followed.

This action is to reassure those living in high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding that work to make their homes safe will be prioritised.

Councillor Peter John, chair of London Councils, said: “We cannot allow the unprecedented challenge that we have all faced with COVID-19 as an excuse to forget the challenge of making our buildings fire-safe across London and the UK.

“Councils in London want to see our residents safe in their homes, so remediation work must continue urgently and building-owners and contractors must treat this work as an absolute priority.”

Unsafe cladding remediation pledge

Earlier this year the government announced a new £1bn fund to pay for the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding for high-rise buildings.

The pledge sets out a commitment to improving the safety of residential blocks whilst also ensuring those working on-site are given clear information and support to guarantee their own safety as well as limiting the spread of COVID-19.

A number of sites across the country have been adapting their procedures in ways that include:

  • having decontamination areas on-site, enabling workers to hose down overalls before safe disposal
  • providing additional toilet and washing facilities, reducing the number of workers gathering together
  • splitting up work teams with a view to minimising the risk of infection.

Jenrick said: “The government is bringing about the biggest change in building safety in a generation. The new building safety regime will put residents’ safety at its heart and follows the announcement of the unprecedented £1bn fund for removing unsafe cladding from high-rise buildings in the Budget.

“However, I have been deeply concerned that vital building safety work has significantly slowed down as a result of the pandemic. I have been clear that work must resume to ensure the safety of residents living in buildings with unsafe cladding or with insufficient fire safety measures, and it is entirely possible for this work to be done safely within health guidelines.

“I brought together Mayors and local leaders to find a solution. The agreement that I have reached with them will ensure those working on these vital repair projects can continue to do so safely.”

The government has provided sector-specific guidance on how to apply social distancing in the workplace in England.

Where work continues on-site, guidance is available from the Construction Leadership Council on further reducing the risk, including measures for maintaining high standards of hygiene.

In order to support this work, the MHCLG has appointed a firm of construction consultants, Faithful & Gould, to advise those planning and doing ACM cladding remediation work, including identifying and increasing awareness of safe practice under current COVID-19 restrictions.

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