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Insurers agree 'with caveats' to cover Nova House fire compartmentation works

Insurers have made assurances to cover crucial fire safety works in a Slough tower block which failed a cladding safety test after the Grenfell Tower disaster — but the bill for the cladding itself remains up in the air.

“Oh the joys of Nova House,” said Slough Borough Council (SBC) leader Councillor James Swindlehurst (Lab, Cippenham Green) as a progress report on Nova House in Buckingham Gardens was given at a cabinet meeting at The Curve yesterday evening (Monday).

The privately owned, seven storey tower comprising of 68 apartments failed a Government backed cladding safety test in June 2017.

In September 2017, it emerged the aluminium composite material used for the building, the same used for Grenfell Tower, was different to the type specified by developer, Timeless Property Services (TPS Nova), and private inspector Butler and Young.

Fears that the freeholder, Ground Rent Estates 5 LTD (GRE5) was not acting quickly enough to remedy defects inside and outside the building lead to SBC buying the company in March 2018, a scenario which Cllr Swindlehurst says is unique to the country.

Updating cabinet members this week, SBC director of regeneration Joe Carter said GRE5 is considering two options to remedy the cladding problem.

GRE5 could either strip the building completely to its steel structure and rebuild it from scratch, which would force tenants to move and leave landlords out of pocket.

The second option, seen as the more preferable route, is to replace the cladding, carry out fire compartmentation work and install sprinkler systems bit by bit.

“We’ve had assurance, at least in principle, that compartmentation work, will be covered, subject to caveats, by the insurance policy which is good news,” said Mr Carter.

“That’s a substantial step forward for all of us having that particular assurance.”

GRE5 director Mike England said: “We have hopes that they [the insurers] will come to the conclusion that the policy has been triggered on the cladding as well.”

The position of the insurers on cladding replacement is yet to be confirmed.

Mr Carter said the possibility of GRE5 taking legal action against Timeless Property Services, Butler and Young and another sub-contractor remains open should insurers not pay out.

In light of the Government’s announcement in May to fund the replacement of cladding in council and housing association blocks, cabinet members agreed to write to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire to ask if Nova House could qualify due to its unusual circumstance.

They also agreed to express their concerns in writing about the role of private building inspectors.

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