Ruth Cadbury MP
House of Commons
RE: Cladding, Leaseholders and Fire Safety Bill
I’m writing in regards to the ongoing difficulties facing many local residents in my
constituency and indeed across the UK due in relation to the removal of dangerous
cladding and the delays within the wider process.
In the last few weeks alone I’ve had more & more local residents approach me who
are trapped in flats which they are unable to sell due to the delays in the EWS1
process. On top of these delays, many residents in buildings across Hounslow &
across a wide range of housing providers are facing extreme difficulty. The breadth &
seriousness of these issues require further intervention from your department and
from across the Government.
As you can imagine this anxiety is even greater due to the ongoing health & economic
consequences of the coronavirus.
1.) EWS1 Form: In the past few weeks and months I’ve been contacted by more &
more local residents who are either unable to sell their home or unable to staircase
into owning a large share due to the inability to access a mortgage with the reason
cited by lenders being the need for a completed EWS1.
Residents who’ve contacted me have told me about both the delays by the building
owners or management companies in completing these surveys and in one example,
the housing provider issued an outright denial to carry out the assessment.
While I fully support all efforts to ensure buildings are safe for residents, I’m very
concerned about these delays, especially as I understand that EWS1 forms were
originally required only for buildings over 18 metres. With this issue in mind I would
appreciate if the following questions could be addressed…
- Since the meeting that Lord Greenhalgh had with mortgage lenders earlier this year
what steps has your department taken to work with the industry to increase the speed
of EWS1 surveys?
- Are EWS1 forms to be used for buildings below the height of 18 metres?
- Can the freeholder or building management company legitimately refuse to carryout an
EWS1 assessment? What steps are local residents supposed to take if there is a refusal?
- Should the cost of carrying out an EWS1 form be passed onto leaseholders?
2.) Chartered Fire Engineers: My second point links to the delay in carrying out
EWS1 surveys, specifically as I understand that the low number of registered
chartered fire engineers is a key reason behind the delay.
As my written parliamentary question from last month demonstrated, there are
currently only 291 in the UK. With the jobs crisis facing our country, surely a sensible
approach would be for HCLG, along with BEIS & the Treasury, to work together to
increase the number who are training and qualified to carry out these surveys.
The Housing, Communities and Local Government select committee report estimated
that with the current backlog of EWS1 assessments it would take 15 years for them to
be completed. This is simply too long and will mean that both local residents in
Hounslow and those across the UK face the prospect of being trapped in their
properties unable to sell or even move.
- What further steps are your department taking to increase the number of qualified
chartered fire engineers?
-What assessment do you make of the number of chartered fire engineers required to
adequately complete the backlog of EWS1 surveys?
3.) Building Safety Fund: Like many who had been campaigning on this issue, I
greatly welcomed the announcement by the Government to provide £1 billion for the
removal of unsafe cladding. This was a welcome step.
However as I’m sure you will accept, this should be seen as the start, rather than the
end of the process. I remain concerned that this funding is not available for sites that
have already begun removing cladding, those which are in the social sector or those
below 18 metres.
Likewise I am concerned that the recent HCLG report into this issue raised serious
concerns about whether this was an adequate sum of money, and suggested the costs
could be between £3 billion and £3.5 billion.
- Are they are plans to revise the requirement for buildings to be 18 metres or above
to receive access to the Building Safety Fund?
4.) Fire Safety: An additional issue that both local residents and the HCLG Select
Committee report have raised is that fire safety improvements extend beyond
cladding. Whether it’s incorrectly fitted fire doors, poorly designed fire breaks or
barriers or ongoing issues around alarms this is an extremely important issue and one
that deserves as much attention and focus as the removal of dangerous cladding.
-What steps is your department taking to work on fixing and improving additional fire
-Do you have any plans to introduce a new fire safety fund or expand the criteria of
the existing fund to cover these features?
-What role will the newly proposed national regulator for building safety play in
relation to internal fire safety features and their maintenance?
5.) Leaseholders- Like many local residents I was extremely concerned to see that the
recent draft of the Fire Safety Bill appeared to put the cost of fixing & repairing
dangerous building conditions back on leaseholders. I understand the bills impact
assessment says that the average cost for leaseholders could reach between £8,000
and £17,000 but in some cases could reach a maximum of £78,000.
These high costs would be simply unaffordable for leaseholders in Hounslow and
indeed across the UK. What’s even more concerning was that the Government had
consistently said that leaseholders should not be expected to have to pay to fix
I would very much appreciate if you could provide reassurance about these costs as
this has understandably worried a number of local leaseholders.
I appreciate that I have raised a number of issues and concerns in this letter. This is in
a sense an indicator of how widescale the issues and problems facing my constituents
are. I very much hope that you can address these issues and answer these questions so
that I can help my constituents who feel extremely distressed about this issue.
I look forward to hearing from you.