DLUHC gives owner of Stevenage block three weeks to start repair work

The government taken its first steps to launching legal action against a block owner who has failed to carry out necessary cladding works.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) has given freeholder Grey GR Limited Partnership 21 days to remediate its 15-storey block in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, or face court action.

It is the first action by the government’s recovery strategy unit, which then secretary of state Michael Gove emphatically stated in April would “pursue firms that have failed to do the right thing, including through the courts”.

simon clarke

Simon Clarke said the move should serve as a warning to others to make sure they fix their buildings

Grey GR, which is owned by asset manager RailPen, has not carried out necessary cladding works on the 15-storey Vista Tower for two years.

Housing secretary Simon Clarke said: “The lives of over 100 people living in Vista Tower have been put on hold for over two years whilst they wait for Grey GR to remediate unsafe cladding. Enough is enough.

“This legal action should act as a warning to the rest of industry’s outliers - big and small. Step up, follow your peers and make safe the buildings you own or legal action will be taken against you.”

Sophie Bichener, leaseholder in Vista Tower, said: “This action is a step in the right direction for the innocent leaseholders still desperately pleading with their building owners to take responsibility.”

See also: The Building Safety Act – here is what you need to know

Clarke is also considering issuing an application for a Remediation Contribution Order against other entities associated with Grey GR including Railways Pension Trustee Company Limited (RailPen) and Railtrust Holdings Limited (Railtrust), requiring them to financially contribute to the remediation costs.

Vista Tower was registered with the Building Safety Fund in 2020 but DLUHC said the funding agreement was yet to be signed so the government could not release any money.

It also said there were 23 other buildings registered with the fund that had “been unable to progress due to unnecessary delays”. It explained: “The department is examining these cases closely and considering next steps.”

The Building Safety fund provides funding to help owners of residential blocks over 18m remediate where necessary.

The recovery strategy unit works with enforcement authorities and was set up to identify and pursue firms that repeatedly do not carry out necessary remediation works. Leaseholders can also apply for a remedial order through the Building Safety Act.

In a statement Grey GR’s said: “We were surprised and disappointed to receive the notification of warning that DLUHC intends to take legal action against Grey GR.

“We have been in regular dialogue with senior officials at DLUHC to address several unclear aspects within the legislation, and we have not been alone in raising these issues.

“We have been seeking the necessary clarity on the process in order to move forward, engaging constructively with the department in support of applications for Building Safety Fund grants to deliver the remediation works and ensure the safety of our residents. 

 It added: “The safety of residents in their homes has been and remains an utmost priority for us. We are seeking legal advice and will be unable to provide further comment while this matter is proceeding.”