Government wins landmark cladding case in Stevenage

Government wins landmark cladding case in Stevenage

The government has won a legal case which forces the freehold owner of a 16-storey tower block to remediate unsafe cladding.

Back in October 2022 the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities took court action against Grey GR Ltd Partnership, the freeholder of Vista Tower in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, after it failed to fix multiple fire safety issues that were identified in 2019.

The First-tier Tribunal Property Chamber ruled in favour of the government, which means Grey GR has to legally fix the issues within a mandated time.

Grey GR is owned by railway pension fund Railpen, which manages £34bn in assets.

Michael Gove, housing secretary, said: “This decision is a victory for leaseholders in Vista Tower and across the country.

“This court case should serve as a warning to all building owners. If you fail to fix your unsafe buildings and ensure the safety of residents, we will see you in court.”

He added: “Railway workers with their pensions invested in this fund, as well as innocent leaseholders, deserve better.”

After legal action took place Grey GR started work on Vista Tower in January 2024.

This is the first time the government has used powers introduced through the Building Safety Act 2022.

The government is also seeking remediation orders on five other Grey GR buildings, including The Chocolate Box in Bournemouth.

A spokesperson for The Residential Freehold Association, hit out at the government.

They said: “This case is an example of the government wrongly apportioning blame rather than taking responsibility for providing stakeholders with effective support to remediate.

“Freeholders did not cause this crisis and should not be held responsible for a combination of weak government regulation, and negligent construction practices.

“Yet the Building Safety Act leaves innocent parties unfairly facing the burden of fixing and paying for unsafe buildings, whilst letting developers and product manufacturers off the hook.

“The government has already wasted enough time trying to pin blame on those who did not cause this crisis – it needs to stop further delay and fund the immediate assessment and remedial costs for all buildings within the scope of the Act and then ensure those responsible for the construction of the buildings pay in line with their own commitments.”