Havering MPs welcome new support for leaseholders in flats with flammable cladding

L-R: Rainham and Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas, Hornchurch and Upminster MP Julia Lopez and Romford MP And

L-R: Rainham and Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas, Hornchurch and Upminster MP Julia Lopez and Romford MP Andrew Rosindell - Credit: Archant

Havering MPs have welcomed Michael Gove’s promise to support leaseholders stuck in dangerously clad properties. 

The levelling up, housing and communities secretary of state told the House of Commons on January 10 that a developers’ tax could be introduced if firms do not fix safety defects voluntarily.  

The Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 cast a spotlight on the use of flammable materials, and the following years have seen many leaseholders – including the leader of Havering Council –hit with huge bills to fix the problem.  

Last February, a multi-billion-pound package was announced to support leaseholders in blocks over 18 metres tall, with leaseholders in blocks of between 11 and 18 metres to be supported by a “long-term, low-interest" loan scheme.  

Mr Gove has now announced stronger supports for leaseholders in low-rise blocks, describing them as “blameless” and insisting the industries responsible should “pay the price”.  

Developers must offer £4billion to remove dangerous cladding in buildings between 11m and 18m by early March to avoid punitive legislation. 

Julia Lopez, MP for Hornchurch and Upminster

Julia Lopez, MP for Hornchurch and Upminster - Credit: Archant

Hornchurch and Upminster MP Julia Lopez said she was “very pleased” that action had been taken for those in properties under 18m in height.  

She said she had raised cladding concerns with the minister last year on behalf of residents of Kings Park Estate in Harold Wood. 

Primula Court at the King's Park estate in Harold Wood

In 2019, a fire broke out at the King's Park estate in Harold Wood. - Credit: Google Streetview / Darren Draper, LFB

In September 2019, 60 firefighters were called to a four-storey block on the estate to put out a blaze which damaged properties on every floor. 

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She said: “I am acutely aware of how stressful this period of uncertainty has been for leaseholders within the constituency, and my team and I have been doing everything we can to represent that anxiety to ministerial colleagues at the very highest level.  

“Fire safety remedial work remains a complex issue that requires all stakeholders to play their part to resolve, but Mr Gove’s statement today is an important next step in addressing leaseholders’ concerns and I hope it will allow them to move on with their lives as soon as possible.” 

Jon Cruddas MP

Rainham and Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography - Official Parliamentary Portrait

Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham and Rainham, said Mr Gove’s statement was a “belated step in the right direction” but said questions remained over the plans. 

He said: “The announcement specifically refers to removal of cladding, but leaseholders should not have to meet any of the costs of other essential fire safety works such as fire breaks between apartment block storeys or wood-cladded walkways or balconies."  

He said developers, manufacturers and building owners should be required by law to meet all costs, and that he has been in dialogue with housing association Clarion regarding Orchard Village in his constituency. 

A block of flats within the Orchard Village estate, Rainham. Picture: Google Maps

Orchard Village - Credit: Google Maps

In October, Orchard Village residents told the Recorder that maintenance fees were making the properties unaffordable, but that they were unable to sell. 

Mr Cruddas said: “In the case of Orchard Village, the builder no longer exists, and they won't be the only ones, so the government need to make sure that the ultimate costs do not fall on leaseholders or on families on the growing housing waiting lists as new build homes programmes are cut back.” 

MP Andrew Rosindell said he was “very thankful” for the secretary of state’s announcement. 

Romford MP Andrew Rosindell

Andrew Rosindell, MP for Romford - Credit: David Woolfall - Official Parliamentary Portrait

Last year, the Romford representative supported an amendment to the Fire Safety Bill which proposed to enshrine protections for leaseholders from paying for historic fire safety defects in law. 

He told the Recorder at the time that the government’s cladding policy was "ruining people’s lives”. 

In a statement released after Mr Gove’s announcement, Mr Rosindell emphasised: “I believe protecting residents from historic and future costs must be a key commitment of new building safety legislation, it is only right that leaseholders will not have to bear the cost of these repairs under any circumstances."

He added that he would continue to work with the UK Cladding Action Group and the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign.