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No funding for removal of combustible balconies, says Malthouse

The government will provide no funding for building owners to remove combustible materials from balconies, housing minister Kit Malthouse has said.

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Kit Malthouse, housing secretary Picture: Guzelian
Kit Malthouse, housing secretary Picture: Guzelian
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No funding for removal of combustible balconies, says Malthouse #ukhousing #CIHhousing

In an interview with Inside Housing, he revealed that despite the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) issuing guidance on Monday asking building owners to remove combustible materials, it would not contribute money towards the work.

Asked whether there would be funds available, Mr Malthouse said: “It’s not envisaged that there is at the moment, no. As we’ve said, building owners are responsible for the safety of their buildings.

“ACM [aluminium composite material, which was used to clad Grenfell Tower] is an exceptional situation where we’ve had to act quickly and frankly. With ACM, quite a lot of private sector owners and developers are fronting the bills anyway. But in those circumstances [balconies], we’re not currently envisioning any funding, no.”

In a note published on Monday in the ongoing aftermath of the Barking fire earlier this month, MHCLG said that building owners should remove combustible materials from balconies “as soon as is practical”, regardless of the height of the building.

The ban on combustible materials the government brought in last November, however, applies only to balconies and external walls above 18m. Samuel Garside House, the site of the Barking fire, is below 18m.

Asked whether the threshold should therefore be lowered, Mr Malthouse told Inside Housing that the government was still consulting on its legislation to implement the Hackitt Review recommendations, and that building height would be part of that.

Addressing the conference during his keynote speech yesterday afternoon, the minister focused heavily on the design and quality of new housing.

He suggested that poor design standards in new housing may be holding back developments, telling delegates: “Ask yourself, why aren’t you welcomed into an area… might it be something to do with the style, with the design of the product?”

He argued that the government – through changes to the National Planning Policy Framework and the work of its Building Better, Building Beautiful commission – has been “doing our bit” to promote good housing design. He said the latter was expected to publish its first report this summer.

Mr Malthouse said he believes that nearly 240,000 homes have been built in 2018/19, which would represent the highest level for 30 years.

In a brief Q&A following his speech, Mr Malthouse insisted that building affordable homes would be a priority for the next prime minister, be it Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt.

In a talk earlier in the day, Mr Malthouse described himself as “one of the few ministers who’s not complaining about money”.

He said: “I’ve got about £45bn to spend on the housing market in its entirety. We’re not short on ambition.”

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