Ahead of the third anniversary of the devastating Grenfell Tower fire, the Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has said it is ‘wholly unacceptable’ that people are still living in dangerously clad buildings - and is frustrated at the number of unsafe buildings.
NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher’s thoughts remain with the families of the 72 people who lost their lives, and all those who continue to be affected by this unthinkable tragedy.
Despite it happening three years ago, more than 160 residential blocks have still not started to remove the ACM cladding systems – similar to that on Grenfell Tower.
NFCC has repeatedly stated to government change has not happened quickly enough; it must now commit to a clear timetable and date for the removal of unsafe cladding from buildings.
While NFCC welcomed the additional £1 billion government funding for the removal of cladding, it has warned cost should not be a barrier to people’s safety - and if necessary, this fund should be increased.
A recent Select Committee highlighted that the removal of dangerous cladding would cost more than the allocated funding.
The government recently said there was an ‘ambition’ for the removal of cladding at all sites to begin by the end of the year, but currently no deadline for completion could be committed to.
NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher said: “Three years on since that unthinkable night, people are still living in dangerously clad buildings. Everyone has a right to feel safe in their homes, therefore we need to see better legislation, regulation and clear lines of responsibility implemented.
“Fundamental reform of building safety must happen at a faster pace to make sure we do not see another tragedy of this scale unfold.
“In many cases building owners are not doing enough to support residents. Some leaseholders are paying unacceptable fees to maintain safety measures which were meant to be temporary.
“The situation has been exacerbated by COVID-19 as it has delayed some of the remediation of dangerous cladding. People are spending more time in their homes, fuelling further anxiety and impacting on their day-to-day lives, denying them their right to feel safe.”
NFCC is also concerned that despite the government committing to undertake research into emergency evacuations, the Government’s ‘Stay Put’ technical group has only met once since it was set up in December last year.
It was set up to oversee funded research on evacuation of high-rise buildings from a design, management and operational perspective. It is key to meeting part of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 recommendations, published in October last year.
NFCC and London Fire Brigade formally approached government in August 2019 – following a number of informal attempts – to raise concerns about the lack of properly funded and dedicated research in this complex and challenging area.