Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee report calls for tougher action to address fire safety issues in high-rise buildings
Seven hospitals in the UK still need to replace potentially-dangerous cladding systems, three years on from the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
A recent report by the National Audit Office’s Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee has called into question the speed of the response to the post-Grenfell warning that cheap aluminium cladding could have enabled the blaze to spread more quickly through the building.
Following the fire, a review of high-rise buildings up and down the country revealed hundreds of other examples, including 38 hospitals and a number of care homes and health centres.
But, three years on, while some hospitals have carried out remedial work, the report reveals that seven have yet to start.
And two do not even have a plan in pace to fix or replace the material, though one is liaising with its PFI provider.
This committee has already called on the Government to fund the removal of all forms of combustible cladding and criticised the pace of change. Nearly 1,000 days since the fire at Grenfell Tower, these issues must now be addressed“The other, the report states, is ‘content’ that its fire-risk mitigation plans are sufficient, with the Department of Health and Social Care now charged with deciding if that is the case.
Though the hospitals in question have not been identified, earlier this week it was revealed that cladding installed by the now-defunct contactor, Carillion, on the uncompleted Royal Liverpool Hospital is set to be stripped off by the original manufacturer.
The non-compliant cladding was discovered by Arup as part of a review into the job following Carillion’s collapse in January 2018.
Remediation work is now due to start, with Portuguese firm, Martifer, drafted to carry out the work, which is expected to take 20 months to complete.
The Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which is responsible for completing the project, put the cladding removal job out to tender in January, over a year after problems were first identified.
But, in a tender notice update released last week, it said it was now cancelling the procurement process as the cladding would be removed by the original manufacturer.
A spokesperson said: “Following a thorough assessment of the cladding of the new Royal Liverpool University Hospital, additional work on a section of the cladding is being undertaken by the original supplier, Martifer.”
In all, 10,000sq m of cladding will be removed.
Laing O’Rourke has taken over from Carillion as the main contractor for the 646-bed hospital, which was originally due to complete in 2017.
It is now not expected to open until 2022.
The cost of the remedial work to hospitals is being met by various government departments including the Department of Health and Social Care and, in some cases PFI providers, but the report criticises the speed of this response and the amount of cash set aside.
Committee chairman, Clive Betts MP, said: “There are still hundreds of buildings encased in combustible cladding.
This is a crisis resulting from decades of inadequate building safety regulation under successive governments and it needs to be addressed in a cost-effective manner, rather than through the piecemeal identification and remediation of flaw upon flaw in the built environment
“This committee has already called on the Government to fund the removal of all forms of combustible cladding and criticised the pace of change. Nearly 1,000 days since the fire at Grenfell Tower, these issues must now be addressed.”
Lord Porter, Local Government Association building safety spokesman, added:“The LGA shares the committee’s view that three years after the Grenfell Tower fire, the remediation of dangerous buildings is proceeding too slowly.
“We have been urging the Government to act on non-ACM dangerous cladding for over two years and we are pleased that the committee shares our view that the fund announced in the Budget, although positive, is insufficient.
“This is a crisis resulting from decades of inadequate building safety regulation under successive governments of all political colours [and] it needs to be addressed in a cost-effective manner, rather than through the piecemeal identification and remediation of flaw upon flaw in the built environment.”