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The UK cladding crisis could drag out 20 years, Bellway warns.

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The UK’s building safety crisis, sparked by the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, could last another 20 years unless governments and lenders agree on a solution, said the president of one of the UK’s largest homebuilders.

Jason Honeyman, CEO of FTSE 250 homebuilder Bellway, said, “It’s a complex topic and it will go on for years. If the ministers don’t find a way to contain the crisis, “we’ll talk about it in 20 years,” he added.

Building safety concerns, especially in high-rise blocks, were sparked by the Grenfell fire, which killed 72 people.

The ongoing follow-up investigation has highlighted concerns about the materials used in high-rise blocks, the companies that supply and mount them, and the regulatory framework governing building safety. Investigations have shown that the Grenfell Tower’s cladding is a “primary cause” of the rapid spread of the fire.

Attempts at solving this problem were initially focused on high-rise blocks with the same type of exterior cladding as the Grenfell tower.

But safety concerns have spread to every corner of the new real estate market following last year’s government advice that multi-story, multi-occupancy residential buildings of all heights should be assessed for fire risk.

The advice raised potential red flags for nearly one-foot apartments across the UK, effectively leaving tenants locked in unsellable properties as the lessor would not offer a mortgage on the home until it was approved as safe.

Efforts to address the hurdle have been slowed by a lack of experts to perform scoping tasks and a variety of interpretations of fire safety.

“The question here is the interpretation of regulations and guidelines. By appointing firefighters who have their own views, lenders can have different views,” said Honeyman.

Ministers have since tried to reverse their 2020 advice, urging lenders and surveyors to take a “more proportionate” approach to risk. But mortgage providers have been reluctant to do so without stronger government guarantees.

Like the other developers listed, Bellway has allocated millions of pounds to solve the problem of its own block.

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Bellway has allocated £52m by the end of July 2021. The most recent promise has raised the company’s total spending on the crisis to £165 million, but Honeyman said he can’t say if it will be final bill. “I’m not sure it will cover it,” he said.

Bellway, which released its full year results on Tuesday, said sales had rebounded to £3.1 billion by 31 July. In the early weeks of the UK outbreak, builders had to unload their tools.

Pre-tax profit was £479 million, doubling from £237 million a year earlier, but around 30% below 2019 levels, the company said.

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