GMCA: Building Safety Fund ‘not enough’ to address fire safety

The government’s £1bn Building Safety Fund will not be enough to make high risk buildings safe from fire, as high rise buildings alone in Greater Manchester may need a quarter of the fund to fix, the Greater Manchester High Rise Task Force has warned.

Writing to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority task force said that the Building Safety Fund – aimed at non-ACM cladding – won’t be enough to address fire safety failings as the average cost for remediating high rise buildings in Greater Manchester alone will be £4 million – around 25% of the fund.

Although the government has made £600 million available to remediate almost 500 ACM clad buildings, there’s ‘no evidence’ to suggest that addressing issues with other cladding types and other fire safety failings will cost less than that amount, it said.

The Mayor of Salford Paul Dennett, chair of the Greater Manchester High Rise Task Force, said: “Residents in Greater Manchester are worried sick about living in buildings which have been assessed as unsafe if there is a fire. This is compounded during the coronavirus crisis with many residents staying at home as much as possible to protect themselves and others.

“Not only do they live with the anxiety of a fire occurring in their building, many now risk losing their jobs and face mounting costs for essential interim fire safety measures and increased insurance and mortgage costs.

“The government must act to ensure there is immediate assistance and confirm that adequate funds will be made available to ensure the safety of all affected buildings. It’s not good enough to leave people wondering if the money will run out before remediation work reaches their building.”

Over 2000 high rise buildings across the country are likely to have ‘significant’ fire safety deficiencies, based on the 20% figure of such buildings in Greater Manchester, the Task Force said in its submission to the HCLG Committee’s Inquiry into Cladding Remediation.

The Task Force has repeatedly argued that more funding should be made available to remediate buildings under 18 metres in height, as it has dismissed the Building Safety Fund’s 18m height threshold as ‘arbitrary and ineffective’.

The Task Force’s criticism comes following the high-profile fire at The Cube student accommodation block in Bolton last year which falls under that height limit.

The campaign group Manchester Cladiators, which represents residents in over 70 blocks of flats in Greater Manchester, said that ‘much greater urgency’ is needed from the government on fire safety funding.

“We echo the comments of the Greater Manchester High Rise Task Force that more funding is needed and those who are currently ineligible need funding too – such as those living in buildings under 18m, those with fire safety issues which don’t involve cladding and those who have already paid for works to be completed,” Manchester Cladiators said.

“An urgent review of interim measures is also needed and residents’ views and experience should be meaningfully taken into account in finalising the details of the Fund.”

An MHCLG spokesperson said: “Residents’ safety remains our priority. This government is bringing forward the biggest change in building safety in a generation backed by our unprecedented £1.6 billion fund to ensure unsafe cladding, where it remains in place, is removed as soon as possible.

“We have also issued guidance to ensure that this essential building safety work continues during the pandemic and have secured pledges from 26 local leaders and five metro mayors – including from across Greater Manchester – to ensure this vital remediation work continues, where it is safe to do so.”

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