Newham has made history by becoming the inaugural British local authority to prosecute a building owner for the non-removal of flammable cladding. Tan Ikram, Deputy Chief Magistrate at the City of London Magistrate's Court, issued a ruling against Chaplair Ltd for failing to meet the deadline for removing hazardous cladding from its Lumiere building at 544 Romford Road, London E7.
When Chaplair Ltd refused to respond to requests to remove the dangerous and health-disrupting cladding despite repeated reminders, the Newham Council initiated legal proceedings under the Housing Act 2004. They were forced to exercise their powers after Chaplair Ltd neglected to eliminate the dangerous cladding by the prescribed deadline of March 31, 2021, as outlined in an improvement notice issued by the Council in September 2020.
Work commenced in May 2021, and the hazardous cladding was eventually removed by February 2022. However, through its legal action, the Council successfully contended that there was no justifiable reason for the delay. This landmark prosecution signifies a significant achievement for Newham Council's Cladding Action campaign. The campaign stresses the urgency for building owners and accountable parties to promptly carry out all necessary fire safety measures, including the removal of any remaining hazardous ACM cladding from blocks. Failure to comply with these safety measures may result in legal prosecution. This initiative reflects the Council's commitment to safeguarding the rights and well-being of residents within the borough.
Chaplair Ltd claimed that the delay in removing the cladding was largely due to challenges in negotiating contract terms with their initial preferred contractor, Willmott Dixon. They also pointed to funding difficulties and the need for approval from Network Rail for certain works as factors contributing to the delay. Despite these arguments, Tan Ikram, the deputy chief magistrate at the City of London Magistrate's Court, ruled that Chaplair was accountable for the delayed remediation and did not provide sufficient justification for non-compliance with the improvement notice.
Through our Newham Cladding Action campaign to protect the rights of residents in our borough, we have zero tolerance for owners of buildings delaying essential life-saving fire safety work. Failing to remove dangerous cladding as quickly as possible places lives at risk, and where necessary, we will act with full force using the powers we have to protect our residents. This is viewed as a major verdict and serves as a clear warning to all building owners in Newham. It shows why it is imperative to prioritise the safety of residents. Failure to act promptly will result in decisive legal action by the authorities.
In the ruling, Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram stated that the prosecution successfully demonstrated the valid service of an Improvement Notice and the defendant company's failure to carry out the required remedial works within the stipulated period. The defendants could not provide a reasonable excuse for non-compliance with the Improvement Notice, leading to the guilty verdict for Chaplair Ltd. The sentencing for this case is scheduled to take place at Westminster Magistrate's Court soon.
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