The Fire Safety Bill was back before the House of Commons last week and it was disappointing, to say the least, to see the Government effectively filibuster a number of backbench amendments that were designed to provide necessary and further support for leaseholders impacted by the cladding scandal.
To be clear, this has never been about being ‘difficult’ or being ‘too ambitious’ in finding a solution. The sole aim of the amendments signed by colleagues and I from across all parties was/is to ensure that leaseholders are not excessively burdened with the cost of remedying design faults that they had no say over.
As colleagues have said, leaseholders have never asked the Government to pay for the full costs of remediation, but just to provide a safety net for leaseholders to ensure the fire safety works are undertaken. Only the Government can afford to provide the cashflow to pay for these works up front and only the Government can then introduce the levies on those responsible to claw that money back over the next ten years.
Ministers have said that while the amendments are well intentioned, they would not have the desired effect and could set back progress of urgent building safety reforms. It is also argued that the amendments would not fulfil the purpose of protecting leaseholders from all costs associated with building remediation as the provisions would only apply to those costs uncovered through the Fire Risk Assessment and not, for example, defects discovered as a result of an incident or other works taking place.
The Government argues that it is working towards a comprehensive solution but, quite frankly, we are coming up to almost 4 years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy and yet the adequate solutions needed to ensure that this never happens again still aren’t being put forward. I accept that the Government is committing to addressing a number of the issues raised in the forthcoming ‘Building Safety Bill’ but this appears to still be at a pre-legislative stage, with no clear sight of it coming before the House of Commons any time soon.
The Government has a chance to right the wrongs caused by previous policy decisions by reactivating the values of hundreds of thousands of properties, that are often people’s first homes, and creating the desirable ripple effect for properties up the chain. Change needs to happen and it needs to happen as soon as possible.
In better news, it is great to see that Network Rail are now making progress with the next phase of the South West Rail Resilience Programme. Last week they submitted plans to Teignbridge District Council for phase three of the project - a new rockfall shelter between Dawlish and Holcombe.
The 209-metre-long extension of the existing rockfall shelter will help protect trains against falling rocks on this section of railway. From their initial investigations, Network Rail found that this was a high priority site for protecting the vital artery to the south west, alongside the Dawlish sea wall and cliffs between Holcombe and Teignmouth.
Preparatory work will begin on 22 March, by cutting back overgrown vegetation and installing safety netting. If the plans are approved and funding confirmed, work will start in August this year.
At Dawlish, the 'Wavewalker' that has been assisting the team building the second part of the new Dawlish sea wall has now left site; and they have installed the new seating along the promenade.
Finally, many pieces of correspondence that I receive are identical and organised by campaign websites focused on a specific campaign. I would like to take the opportunity to remind everyone that my responses to these campaign emails can be found on my website: https://www.annemariemorris.co.uk/my-views
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