‘Big step forward’ in ongoing cladding crisis for Eastbourne residents, MP says

The MP for Eastbourne says she’s pleased with the progress made around cladding issues many residents face but argues questions still remain unanswered.

In the latest steps taken by the government to deal with the issue of unsafe cladding, new measures have been put forward to hold firms to account.

A spokesperson for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities, said, “The government has today (Monday, January 10) reset its approach to building safety with a bold new plan to protect leaseholders and make wealthy developers and companies pay to fix the cladding crisis.”

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Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove guaranteed that no leaseholder living in their own flat will have to pay a penny to fix unsafe cladding.

Soverign Harbour in Eastbourne

This refers to leaseholders in medium-rise buildings which are higher than 11m and around four to six storeys high. Prior to this people living in these buildings were only eligibly for a loan scheme rather than government support.

Now this loan scheme has been scrapped and firms now have until March to agree to a financial contributions scheme to fund the new plan, otherwise the government will impose a solution in law.

In addition, a new dedicated government team is being established to pursue and expose companies at fault and to force them to shoulder the burden of making buildings safe.

Mr Gove said, “More than four years after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the system is broken. Leaseholders are trapped, unable to sell their homes and facing vast bills. But the developers and cladding companies who caused the problem are dodging accountability and have made vast profits during the pandemic whilst hard working families have struggled.

Grenfell Tower disaster (Getty Images) PPP-200113-111725006

“From today, we are bringing this scandal to an end – protecting leaseholders and making industry pay. We will scrap proposals for loans and long-term debt for leaseholders in medium-rise buildings and give a guarantee that no leaseholder living in their own flat will pay a penny to fix dangerous cladding.

“Working with members of both houses, we will look to bring a raft of leaseholder protections into law through our Building Safety bill. And we will restore much needed common sense on building safety assessments, ending the practice of too many buildings being declared unsafe.”

In Eastbourne around 40 buildings including several in Sovereign Harbour have the cladding.

MP for Eastbourne Caroline Ansell said, “I spoke directly with Michael Gove in the commons on Monday to push the interests of impacted leaseholders in Eastbourne.

“I am pleased the new secretary of state recognises that leaseholders should not be responsible for wider fire safety such as missing fire breaks or inappropriate materials used on balconies for example. In some cases, this remedial work can be as costly as cladding removal – the issue that has always dominated the debate and the headlines.

“In Eastbourne the extension of the limitation period to 30 years is good news. The town has developments that missed the previous limitation period. This means developers or freeholders in many more cases will have to address issues of building safety, which I know will be a big relief for many leaseholders.

“However, there remains an issue of financing this remediation of historical fire safety defects. Questions remain over whether the government is prepared to pay up front to allow works to progress. Or whether it will pay costs if developers cannot fund it. Some Eastbourne leaseholders have already paid out thousands on this and will they be reimbursed in some way.

“I have today asked for a formal meeting with the secretary of state to put these questions and concerns to him.

“This announcement is a big step forward but I would like to be clear about how it will be implemented in practice, and how exactly it will help people in Eastbourne.”

Kathy Ballard, Lib Dem spokesperson for Sovereign Ward, said, “I welcome Michael Gove’s intention to put pressure on builders to have a plan ready by March to fund cladding replacement in buildings between 11m and 18m. It is clear that failing to support leaseholders in these blocks was the wrong decision.

“I am very pleased for Eastbourne’s residents who are living in blocks with cladding which are 11m to 18m high however all multiple occupation buildings with cladding are affected and this still does not go far enough. I call on our MP to continue to put pressure on the government to provide relief to all leaseholders affected by the cladding issue through no fault of their own.”