Cladding testing review welcomed as Gove turns focus onto investors

The review by Paul Morrell and Anneliese Day KC sought to find out what needs to change before products are placed on the market – and, before they are placed in buildings and how product users can make informed choices about fitness for purpose.

It came as housing Secretary Michael Gove warned investors in cladding companies Kingspan, Arconic, and Saint-Gobain that the companies they invest in will face “severe consequences” if they do not come forward with a comprehensive financial package to fix unsafe buildings.

Steven Norris, chairman of Soho Estates, welcomed Morrell and Day’s review. “It was scandalous that cladding was allowed onto the market, under completely false pretences, where manufacturers knew what they were describing as non-flammable was actually potentially flammable. We need to do a lot more to ensure that if we are going to use construction materials, they are fit for purpose, so I welcome this.

“It clearly is necessary to stop something like Grenfell ever happening again. All legislation has to be looked at very carefully to ensure that we’re not actually wasting a lot of time. But looking at this particular case, it makes sense to do it,” he said.

Peter Caplehorn, chief executive of the Construction Products Association, said: “We are very pleased to see the publication of this review. Paul has immense experience from the many senior roles he has played in both industry and government. We respect him for his intellect, understanding and objective approach to the challenges facing our industry.

“This report should be required reading for policy-makers and industry leaders alike, coming at a critical time not only for the future of the UK product testing and certification sector, but for the wider culture and practices of UK construction as well.”

Separately, Gove wrote to investors Blackrock, Vanguard, and Fidelity Management and Research, as well as investors like Norges Bank, the central bank of Norway to “engage constructively in helping us reach a just resolution for all concerned.”

Shareholders were warned that if the manufacturers do not come forward with a comprehensive financial package, then the focus of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities “will be trained upon them” and “the consequences for that firm are likely to be severe.”

The letters add that there will likely be consequences for shareholders’ reputations, in addition to their financial stake, if he is forced to use “the legal and commercial tools available” to ensure the position of the cladding companies “becomes extremely uncomfortable.” Gove also said he is considering whether further tools will need to be handed to regulators or the government.

Mick Platt, director of the Residential Freehold Association, added: “While we welcome the government’s recognition of the significant role product manufacturers played in creating the building safety crisis, to date the government has placed no requirements on the sector to pay for solving this very crisis.

 “The RFA has consistently argued manufacturers must pay their share to cover the gaps not covered by other building safety funding. The government must now turn strong statements into meaningful action, and make polluters pay.”

Source: Property Week