The Minister for Climate Change, Julie James has shared an update on the process they are taking with Plaid Cymru to address building Safety in Wales.
The update covers seven important aspects, each with its own focus:
In March, the Welsh Building Safety Programme made an announcement about the inclusion of 28 buildings in the Orphan Buildings pilot scheme.
The Orphan Buildings scheme encompasses buildings where the developer has ceased trading, their identity is unknown, or the building was developed over 30 years ago.
Responsible Person(s) for all 28 buildings have been contacted, and they have been provided with guidance on the next steps to be taken. Welsh Building Safety consultants are currently preparing work plans and outlining the necessary tasks that need to be carried out.
These initiatives will be part of the second phase of the Welsh Building Safety Fund, as previously disclosed. The Welsh Government will cover the costs of the works under the Orphan Buildings scheme. The remediation works are set to commence shortly, starting with the first building in the list.
The Welsh Government is taking steps to address the issue of leaseholders who have already paid for fire safety works buildings. For medium and high-rise buildings falling under the orphan building category, the Welsh Government has agreed to fund eligible works that have already been completed.
Leaseholders who have previously paid for fire safety works related to construction faults in orphan buildings will be reimbursed. Applications for reimbursement can be submitted by Responsible Persons on behalf of the leaseholders. Those in this situation are encouraged to contact officials at BuildingSafety@gov.wales.
Furthermore, some companies that have developed buildings under the Welsh Government’s contract are being urged to reimburse leaseholders who have had to pay for fire safety works. Several companies have already taken the initiative to reimburse affected leaseholders, which is welcomed by the authorities.
In March, it was announced that six developers had already signed the legally binding contract, which is a crucial part of the Developers’ Pact. Additionally, three other developers had expressed their intent to sign the contract.
As of now, all developers who were expected to sign the legally binding contract have done so. This collective commitment represents their clear intention to address and resolve fire safety issues in buildings they have developed over the past 30 years.
The developers who have signed the contract are Vistry, Countryside, Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey, Bellway, Barratts, Lovell, Crest Nicholson, McCarthy Stone, and Redrow. By signing the pact, these developers have demonstrated their dedication to ensuring the safety of the properties they have built and taking responsibility for addressing any fire safety concerns in their developments.
All the work plans from the developers have been received, and work has been completed or still in process in the following:
These developers have been commended for stepping up to their responsibility and demonstrating their commitment to building safety. Furthermore, discussions are made with the remaining developers who are actively working on their plans to initiate works as swiftly as possible.
In March it was announced that the Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) had agreed to extend their guidance to valuers in both England and Wales.
The guidance, which will be published soon, will contain a link to the Welsh Government web page. This link will offer comprehensive information, including a list of properties within the scope of our Building Safety Programme. It will specifically cover properties named within individual contracts with developers and those included in the first cohort of orphan buildings. The information will also include details about building status and remediation plans.
By providing this information to valuers, we aim to offer them an understanding of the building status, which will aid in the removal of barriers and enable mortgage valuations of flats in affected blocks. This step is crucial in supporting leaseholders who are in buildings impacted by fire safety issues to access mortgages.
In March, they had updated the assistance provided to medium and high-rise residential buildings in the social sector.
The Welsh Government has allocated funding through the Social Landlord Grant to facilitate the remediation of medium and high-rise buildings in the social sector.
The latest round of funding is set to close in July 2023. After the conclusion of this final round of applications, it is anticipated that all social sector buildings, where eligible applications have been received, will either have completed the remediation works or have a comprehensive work plan in place.
This ongoing support aims to ensure that buildings in the social sector meet the required safety standards and provide a secure living environment for residents.
It is fully aware of the significant challenges that building safety issues are causing for affected residents, both in terms of their financial burdens and their health and wellbeing. To address this pressing issue, the Leaseholder Support Scheme was introduced, which is specifically tailored for those facing financial hardship due to building safety concerns.
This scheme is unique to Wales and is designed to provide assistance to leaseholders directly affected by building safety issues. In March, a review of the scheme was conducted and subsequently provided an update on its progress.
One property has already been purchased through the scheme, and five more properties are currently progressing through the property purchase process. By offering the option to buy these properties, affected leaseholders are provided with the choice to either move on from their current situation or rent the property back.
Any leaseholders that are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of building safety issues must use the eligibility checker. This will help determine if any are eligible for support through the Leaseholder Support Scheme.
The proposals for reform during the design and construction phase were outlined in our White Paper titled “Safer Buildings in Wales.”
Currently, the first phase of reforms to the building control regime is underway, with a focus on addressing the issues identified within the existing system. Legislative changes are being introduced as part of this phase.
The first phase of reforms aims to establish stricter regulations for the building control profession, encompassing private building control approvers, building inspectors, and local authorities involved in building control functions.
The intended changes will result in an improvement of competence levels, transparency, and accountability within the building control professions. The goal is to ensure that only individuals possessing the appropriate skills and competence are advising decision-makers during critical building control measures, thereby enhancing the safety and reliability of building projects.
Several consultations related to building safety have recently concluded, and the responses are soon to be published. In the coming autumn, the first set of secondary legislation will be created to establish registers for all Building Inspectors and Building Control Approvers.
The registration process is expected to open in October of this year, with the aim of transitioning to the new regime starting from April 2024.
Furthermore, work is progressing rapidly on a Building Safety Bill for Wales, which is slated to be introduced later in this Senedd Term. The reforms outlined in this bill will enhance accountability for building safety during the occupation phase. Unlike in England, where the requirements apply only to buildings of 18 metres and above, the intention in Wales is for the new regime to encompass all multi-occupied residential buildings.
Throughout the past twelve months, close collaboration with stakeholders in the industry and residents has been integral to developing the proposed reforms.
The Welsh Government is attentively considering the feedback from stakeholders and taking the necessary time to meticulously address the details. The objective is to establish a regime that effectively meets the specific requirements of Wales, one that prioritises the safety and security of residents in their homes, and minimises risks associated with building safety concerns.
If you are a resident in a block of flats and affected by any of the above, Seraph may be able to help. We are working closely with developers at our existing sites to ensure that buildings are safe and leaseholders have access to funding wherever possible. Please contact us to discuss the management of your building.