Work to address fire safety in Wales’ high-rise buildings continues
Work to address fire safety in Wales’ high-rise buildings continues more than six years after 72 people died during the Grenfell Tower disaster.
Julie James provided an update to the Senedd about the Welsh Government’s progress on addressing building safety following the 2017 tragedy.
The housing minister said remediation works are currently under way at 34 sites, including Prospect Place and Century Wharf in Cardiff.
She told MSs work is expected to begin at a further 34 buildings in 2024, saying officials are nearing a deal with Landlease and in positive talks with Watkin Jones – two key developers.
Ms James stressed that ministers have a route to address fire safety issues in all residential buildings of 11 metres and higher in Wales.
“This is not limited to buildings with cladding,” she said. “Wales is the only UK nation to make this commitment.”
Ms James said oversight of new high-risk buildings will be restricted to local authority building control from April, with a new classification system for registered inspectors.
Janet Finch-Saunders, the Conservatives’ shadow minister, said she has met countless people who live in a property they cannot sell or rent out.
She told MSs: “More than six years on from the Grenfell tragedy, it is distressing to think that we have hundreds of residents across Wales living in unsafe buildings.”
Ms James told the Senedd that the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors will publish updated cladding valuation guidance to include Wales in December.
She said: “This is a major step in providing consistency and transparency in the valuation process for flats in blocks affected by cladding issues.”
Mabon ap Gwynfor highlighted that the work is being advanced due to an agreement between his party and the Welsh Government.
The Plaid Cymru shadow minister told the chamber that the mental health of tenants and leaseholders continues to suffer as they await resolution.
Mr Gwynfor criticised a culture of corners being cut by developers at the expense of safety.
He said: “People are still suffering psychologically as a result of the problems brought about by companies putting profits before people and cutting corners to increase their income.”
Ms James explained that smaller developers, which cannot fully cover remediation costs, will receive help through the Welsh building safety fund.
She said the fund will also support remediation at so-called orphan buildings – where a developer is unknown or has ceased trading – such as Kings Court, Newport.
Ms James added that £39 million has been approved for the social housing sector, with 131 buildings set to benefit.
During the statement to the Senedd on Tuesday November 28, she announced free legal advice will be available for leaseholders who have concerns about fire safety.
Jane Dodds, the Lib Dem leader in Wales, focused her contribution on the mental health and stress suffered by our leaseholders.
“One distressed leaseholder who’s been in touch with me has faced delays stretching back for years now, and that in itself has a significant effect,” she said.
Labour backbencher Mike Hedges welcomed the decision to restrict oversight of new high-risk buildings to local authorities.
The Swansea East MS said: “We might wonder why people who didn’t have the knowledge and experience were actually being allowed to do it in the past.”
Ms James agreed, saying the Welsh Government will be looking to restrict building inspection services to councils when a new law is brought forward.
She said: “We have developers who basically have a contract with a single set of building control inspectors.
“I don’t mean to impugn the integrity of any individual inspector … but there’s something not quite right about a retained set of people who only work for a single developer.”
By Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com
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