Julie James, Minister for Climate Change
I have always made it clear that I do not expect leaseholders to bear the cost of repairing fire safety issues that are not of their making and that I expect developers to step up to their responsibilities.
I am very pleased that following our roundtable meeting in July a number of major developers have acknowledged their responsibility by signing up to the Welsh Government’s Developers Pact. This confirms their intention to address fire safety issues in buildings of 11 metres and over in height that they have developed over the last 30 years. These developers are Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey, Lovell, McCarthy and Stone, Countryside, Vistry, Redrow, Crest Nicholson and Barratt.
I met with these developers yesterday to confirm next steps, and their plans and timescales for remediation. I wish to commend them for their engagement to date and look forward to a productive relationship in the future. In some cases, developers have started their remediation works, and are making the repairs necessary. I look forward to this work continuing at pace.
I remain disappointed that three developers are yet to provide me with assurances that they do not have any medium or high-rise developments in Wales or, if they do, are prepared to meet their responsibilities in respect of these developments.
The three developers yet to reply are: Laing O’Rourke, Westmark, and Kier (now Tilia).
I am urging these developers to contact my officials immediately to confirm their position. I want to make clear I am exploring all options, including legislation, to ensure that those developers will face consequences for their unwillingness to accept their responsibilities.
I am proud of the commitment we have made in Wales that a holistic approach is necessary to effectively address fire safety issues. This means that both internal and external factors are considered, rather than a focus on cladding alone.
I have made £375 million available to tackle building safety and have taken steps to ensure all appropriate routes are being explored to make sure that all medium and high-rise buildings in Wales are as safe as they can be from fire.
To deliver on this commitment, it is essential that we understand the needs of individual buildings and design bespoke solutions to best address their fire risk. A comprehensive survey provides this information, and the Welsh Building Safety Fund, which is still open for expressions of interest from responsible persons, is supporting this aim.
Both the digital and intrusive survey work is paid for by the Welsh Government. By funding and commissioning the surveys, Welsh Government will gain a clear, consistent and comprehensive picture of building safety issues across Wales.
Where buildings are found to be low risk, our consultants will provide an EWS1 certificate. This will help to reassure leaseholders and remove barriers to them accessing financial products such as mortgages.
To date, the digital surveys have identified 163 buildings across Wales that require intrusive surveys. All responsible persons have been contacted to advise them of the need for intrusive surveys, and to arrange for permission to access the building to undertake this work.
In some cases, our consultants have faced restricted access to buildings, which has delayed our programme of surveys. I would urge responsible persons to do all they can to facilitate access, so that our surveyors can continue this important work. I have written to responsible persons / managing agents to press this message.
I have been made aware that in a number of cases, survey work was undertaken prior to the launch of the Welsh Building Safety Fund, funded by residents, building owners or managing agents. Where this has happened, and subject to certain eligibility criteria being met, surveys costs will be reimbursed by Welsh Government. If responsible persons / managing agents are in this position, please contact my officials at email@example.com.
While it is right that developers are accountable, building owners and Managing Agents also have accountabilities when it comes to ensuring the safety of buildings and it is important that effective maintenance programmes are in place. I would encourage all residents to assure themselves that maintenance on their buildings is being carried out in accordance with their lease agreements.
I am also aware that in some cases, leaseholders are in severe financial difficulties as a result of fire safety issues and to address this I launched the Leaseholder Support Scheme in June.
As I committed when I launched the scheme, I have instructed officials to review the criteria to ensure that those in greatest need are receiving support. This review is underway, and I will announce any further changes to the scheme and eligibility criteria shortly.
Building Safety in Wales must both address our present situation and undertake fundamental reform of the building safety regime to ensure the problems we face now cannot arise again in future. Alongside investment over the next three years for building safety work, plans are underway for a significant programme of legislative and cultural reform to establish a fit for purpose building safety regime in Wales. Reforming the current system of building safety is a key commitment for this Government and also forms an important part of our Co-operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru. In addition to this, a number of provisions that apply in relation to Wales were included within the UK Building Safety Act 2022.
The Act received Royal Assent in April 2022. The provisions that apply in relation to Wales focus primarily on the reform of the building control system (Part 3 of the Act) but do extend to other areas, including several provisions intended to add further protection for leaseholders.
Some of the key provisions which have been commenced include:
• Amendment of the Building (Approved Inspectors etc.) Regulations 2010 to make the approved inspector sector more resilient and flexible in the face of insurance market fluctuations, and to create alignment on insurance requirements between approved inspectors and other professions
• The extension of the Defective Premises Act 1972 time periods and provision to deal with the lack of redress availability where a development company no longer exists.
We have completed our design and construction phase transition plan which enables us over the next three years to make the legislative changes necessary to ensure that the problems identified with the current building control regimes are rectified.
The first of the public consultations on this work was published in September. This consultation is focused on the rules and standards we will expect Building Control Bodies both in the public and private sector to comply with.
This can be found on the Welsh Government Consultation pages.
A full understanding of the impacts of any proposed changes is integral to this new regime, as is providing all stakeholders the opportunity to shape future policy. To this end expect to see further related consultations over the coming months.
We will be publishing more detail of our transition plan on our webpages shortly.