Responding to the joint statement issued late last week by housing secretary Robert Jenrick and the metropolitan mayors – insisting that the replacement of flammable cladding remains priority work – Peter Johnson, chairman of Vivalda Group said:
“While we all agree that all Grenfell-style cladding needs to be removed and replaced as soon as possible, calls from those in power to simply ‘get on with it’ reflect a failure to appreciate the various practical challenges facing the construction supply chain at this time.
“As a supplier of non-flammable cladding to more than 70 projects across the UK, we would be only too delighted to recommence operations; however a lack of political direction, muddled communication and disjointed decision making has created a confusing and contradictory situation for suppliers, contractors and project managers alike.
“On one hand, we’re now being urged to mobilise people to restart recladding sites while on the other we see daily pictures of passengers crammed into tube trains and buses. This presents any responsible employer with a real dilemma – start working on replacing faulty cladding or place your own people at risk on public transport where those on board cannot possibly conform to social distancing guidelines? It’s a huge dilemma. And to be honest, without assurance that workers can get to site safely, I’d not be happy sending my people out to work.
“Furthermore, ministers and mayors alike need to appreciate that recommencing the replacement of dangerous cladding cannot be done with the flick of a switch. Most sites closed after bowing to government pressure, leaving my company with no choice but to furlough hugely knowledgeable staff. Now we’re facing criticism for failing to continue working on these important projects. Without clarity and consistency on this important matter, the industry is faced with a non-win situation.”
Peter Johnson is chairman of Vivalda Group, the UK’s largest independent supplier and fabricator of non-combustible cladding and façade systems.