Cladding issues to be discussed at building quality ‘crisis’ online forum

Experts from the construction industry, politicians and housing campaigners are to take part in a major online forum to look at issues around building quality including cladding, safety and leasehold and freehold abuse.

The Building Quality Crisis Forum will take place online, via Zoom and Youtube, on July 23, from 10am to 2.30pm, and anyone can join the proceedings by clicking here.

A panel of experts has been assembled including industry specialists, local authority politicians and Cambridge Labour MP Daniel Zeichner.

Representatives of London Cladding Action Group, Manchester Cladiators, Ipswich Cladding Action Group, and Leasehold Knowledge Partnership will take part alongside building control and fire authority experts, and “snagging” company HouseScan.

The public, including people from the South West, will be able to ask questions at the forum.

The event, which has gained support from new-build housing campaigner John Gaskell, has been set up by Cambridge city councillor and architect Katie Thornburrow.

She said everyone should be concerned about the quality of buildings, whether council homes, private developments, schools, offices or civic buildings.

She said that since the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017 attention has rightly focused on concerns about unsafe cladding, with serious concerns about the safety of people living in affected properties, the costs of replacing potentially dangerous materials, and who should pay.

But she said there are questions about other aspects of building quality across the UK such as poorly fitted insulation leading to cold bridges and mould problems, poor plumbing and electrics, inadequate installation of fire prevention measures, and serious questions around leasehold and freehold abuses.

Cllr Thornburrow, who has more than 30 years experience as an architect, said an open debate is needed so people can be better informed about changes to building regulations, public policy and accountability for buildings.

She said: “Since the Grenfell disaster, I have watched and listened in horror at the unfolding of evidence about aspects of the construction industry. The inquiry into this single building has uncovered a broken industry.

“I’ve been an architect for over 30 years focusing on residential projects, and getting them built to the correct standards, and in accordance with the drawings and specifications I put together. I have inspected every site that I have been involved with, every week.

“I have worked with many excellent builders, companies and individuals within the industry. Buildings can be very well built. They can look great and provide excellent homes.

“Knowing this, it is heartbreaking to see the standard of some buildings that ruin the lives of those who occupy them. Families are torn apart. Many are living in fear wondering if their buildings are compromised and flammable.

“As a councillor it’s hard knowing that there is little that I can do to change the situation, or get these building defects rectified. But I can try to be as knowledgeable as I can regarding the different aspects of failure of building quality.

Business Live’s South West Business Reporter is William Telford. William has more than a decade’s experience reporting on the business scene in Plymouth and the South West. He is based in Plymouth but covers the entire region.

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“I’ve set up the forum to hear from experts and to allow councillors to ask questions. The event will be live streamed and any questions from the public audience will be picked up by the experts if time allows, or answered in a report that I will prepare and circulate.”

Harry Yates, managing director of Housescan, said: “I’m really looking forward to sharing my thoughts on where I see the industry being at in terms of quality.

“HouseScan supports thousands of customers per year around the UK and we get a unique insight into the varying quality of output from UK developers region by region.

“With events like this we look to share our experiences and focus on how over the next decade with the development of technology the industry will experience great change that must be managed with upcoming legislation and regulation set by the Government and the upcoming incorporation of the new homes ombudsman and the subsequent code.”

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