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Minister contradicts PM by admitting EWS1 cladding forms can be used for low buildings

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  • 18/12/2020
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Minister contradicts PM by admitting EWS1 cladding forms can be used for low buildings
Housing minister Christopher Pincher has contradicted prime minister Boris Johnson by admitting mortgage lenders are right to demand an External Wall Survey (EWS1) form for buildings under 18m in height where there are concerns over cladding.

 

The admission comes after prime minister Boris Johnson attacked lenders during Prime Minister’s Questions last month for using the EWS1 forms on smaller buildings.

Lenders began using the forms for buildings less than 18m in height following a January update from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) which brought properties under 18m into scope.

Ministers have regularly protested this approach by lenders but now appear to accept that they are following necessary processes when doing so where cladding concerns arise.

Pincher’s statement came in response to a written question from Labour MP for Denton and Reddish Andrew Gwynne, who asked about lenders requesting EWS1 forms in blocks of three storeys or less.

In his answer, Pincher said: “The EWS1 process is not a government or regulatory requirement.”

He noted that whether an EWS1 is needed is determined by lenders and the professionals valuing a building.

“The department has come to an agreement with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) that flats in blocks without cladding do not need an EWS1 form,” he said.

“Buildings under 18m should not fall into the EWS1 process, unless in justifiable circumstances – usually relating to the proportion of cladding on the building.

“RICS is working with wider industry, including lenders, on new guidance for surveyors which will make clearer the circumstances when EWS1 valuation forms are, and are not, to be requested.”

 

Johnson’s outburst

In his outburst during Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson said: “Mortgage companies should realise they [EWS1 forms] are not necessary for buildings under 18m and it’s absolutely vital they understand that while we get on with the work of removing cladding from all the buildings we can, and that’s what this government is continuing to do.”

Lenders responded with a statement on their own, saying: “In January, MHCLG’s advice note for owners of multi-storey, multi-occupied buildings was updated making it clear that all buildings should include an assessment of cladding as part of their Fire Risk Assessment.”

 

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