Wales has become the first country in the UK to confirm a route to remediation for all high-rise residential buildings affected by fire safety issues.
The commitment applies to all residential buildings of 11 metres or over in height and is not restricted to buildings with cladding.
Reforming building safety is a key part of the Welsh Government’s Cooperation Agreement with Plaid Cymru and a significant update was delivered by Climate Change Minister Julie James in the Senedd yesterday (Tuesday November 28).
The commitment comes alongside confirmation the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors will publish updated cladding valuation guidance to include Wales.
Climate Change Minister Julie James explained: “This is a major step in providing consistency and transparency in the valuation process for flats in blocks affected by cladding issues.
“The updated guidance will assist valuers and lenders in their decision making, in turn, this will reduce friction and delay for home buyers, sellers, and leaseholders wishing to re-mortgage their homes.
“The guidance will reflect the Welsh Government’s position, confirming to valuers and lenders there are funded routes to remediation, at no cost to leaseholders, for all residential buildings in Wales of 11 metres or over in height.
“This is whether repairs are the responsibility of social sector partners, developers, or buildings where there is no accountable developer available to undertake works.”
Ten major UK developers have already signed the Welsh Government contract and major remediation works are already underway at sites including Aurora, Davids Wharf, Prospect Place and Century Wharf.
A further 34 buildings are estimated to start work in 2024.
The Minister also confirmed that the Welsh Building Safety Fund would continue to support developers and that the Welsh Government’s Orphan Building Scheme,.
Orphan Buildings is the term for privately owned buildings where a developer is unknown or has ceased trading. The Welsh Government has identified an initial cohort of 31 buildings and work has already started in key sites including Kings Court in Newport.
It was also confirmed that additional social sector projects were to be taken forward, with a further £39m allocated. In total, 131 buildings social sector buildings will benefit from this fund.
The Minister also provided a major update on building safety reform.
“I am pleased to confirm the first set of regulations have been agreed and these describe what constitutes a higher risk building, the Minister said.
“Buildings falling within scope of these regulations will be subject to tighter controls on who can supervise and approve work undertaken.
“They will also be subject to a new, enhanced regime during the design, construction, and refurbishment phases.”
From April 2024, the Welsh Government will restrict the oversight of new high-risk buildings to local authority building control, introducing a new class system for registered building inspectors.
This is to make sure only individuals who have the relevant skills, knowledge, and experience necessary are advising decision-makers.
The Minister continued: “In my last statement I advised we would be introducing a new regulatory regime for building inspectors and building control bodies to support the changes needed.
“Today, I can confirm the secondary legislation required for the creation of registers for all building inspectors and building control approvers will be in place by April 2024. From this point they will be required to register to continue working within the building control profession.
“As part of the registration conditions, inspectors and approvers will have to comply with new standards, codes, and rules. Building inspectors will also be required to have their competence verified by a third-party scheme.
“We plan to open the registration process in January 2024; but I would encourage those who need to register to get ahead of the game and have their competence verified as soon as possible.”
There was also good news for leaseholders facing legal costs and Local Authority Building Control.
The Minister said the Welsh Government would make independent legal advice available for leaseholders and that more details would follow in the new year.
The Minister also confirmed the Welsh Government would support the Local Authority Building Control in the recruitment and training of eight trainee officers for Wales.
These trainees will learn about building control on the job whilst completing their professional qualifications.