Fire safety costs spiral to £17.8million at Slough's Nova House

Costs to replace unsafe cladding and install further safety measures at a block of flats in Slough have spiralled to £17.8 million.

Nova House, a private seven-storey tower block in Buckingham Gardens, failed a Government cladding safety test in June 2017 in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Slough Borough Council stepped in to purchase the company which owns the freehold to the site, Ground Rents Estates 5 Limited (GRE5) in October 2017.

The council took the decision due to fears over the safety of residents in the block and concerns the local authority would need to pay for all residents to be moved into temporary accommodation if the unsafe cladding wasn’t fixed.

A meeting of the local authority’s cabinet heard last night repair costs to the building have now risen from the £4million originally estimated to £17.8million.

Councillor James Swindlehurst, who signed off on the decision to purchase GRE5 at the start of his tenure as council leader, said: “I thought we had an obligation to deal with the cladding issue and try and deal with that in the best way possible but my advice was we should have pursued the enforcement route.

“The officers’ advice was to point out the risk of having to decant everyone into temporary accommodation.

“I don’t think anyone assumed we were likely to be discovering things to the tune of £17 million, it seemed to be a cladding issue.

“Unfortunately all the structural columns didn’t have their steel properly in line with fire safety and there were whole load of issues about breaches of compartments between the flats.”

In January 2019, the council approved a £7million loan facility for GRE5 to help fund the fire safety works at the residential block, including the installation of high quality heat detectors and a 24-hour waking watch.

The projected total bill for the block's overhaul include £9.98million on cladding works, £2.4million for future fire safety works, £2.05million for future operational costs and Nova House's operational costs to date including the waking watch and legal fees.

The meeting heard how a £7.8 million grant has been secured from Homes England to cover cladding costs at the building but GRE5 said a further £2.2million, ineligible for Government funding, is required to complete the works.

To access the Home England funding, Slough Borough Council must also provide a parent company guarantee to underwrite the costs of the cladding replacement.

Cabinet members approved the recommendation for full council that the parent company guarantee should be provided.

The council leader added the local authority remains committed to completing the cladding replacement and safety of communal areas.

But he said the council is not looking to get ‘further involved’ with outstanding fire safety issues between individual flats.

He added: “We’re very nervous about not wanting to saddle leaseholders with big and unnecessary bills but we also want to try and get to a place where we get a strategy where it isn’t solely an activity of Slough Borough Council forever.”

The meeting heard GRE5 is still pursuing a claim against the insurers of the building to cover some of the costs of the cladding overhaul.

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