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External Wall Systems, Cladding, Fire Safety Update

Scottish Government Update March 24

James Gibb remains committed to keeping homeowners fully informed and as such we write to provide an information update regarding the ongoing situation with external wall systems and fire safety systems via Scottish Government (SG) updates received.

Update on Single Building Assessment (SBA) Surveys - External Wall Systems/Fire Safety Systems

There have been some delays in the progress of the Single Building Assessment Programme via SG, which is due to two key areas:

  1. Confirmation on the standard of which buildings will be remediated to in Scotland, which is in consideration of SG’s, Single Advice Note (SAN) and PAS 9980 standards in England and Wales. This is linked to the SG’s Building Accord Programme with UK and Scottish Homebuilders/Developers.
  2. There is a Legislation/Bill which aims to support those buildings affected by faulty cladding and fire safety issues. The proposed legislation aims to address the cladding issues raised following the Grenfell tragedy.

Discussions have been ongoing on both items noted above, which have impacted the progress of the 27 Buildings on the SG pilot scheme and the expected Pathway 2 Programme for the remaining buildings already on Phase 2, of which there is an estimated 78 buildings listed; a total including the pilot of 105 buildings between the pilot and Pathway 2. It has been noted that there is circa 780 High Rise Buildings in Scotland and it should be noted not all are impacted by fire safety issues.

For the buildings involved in the programmes above, we have been advised that following consultation via various avenues, including Holyrood's Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee, there has been examination of the Housing (Cladding Remediation) (Scotland) Bill.

In its ‘Stage 1’ report on the Bill published late February 2024, the Committee has called for a clearer picture of how it will help secure remedial action for affected properties. Measures within the Bill would give Scottish Ministers powers to assess and remediate buildings with unsafe cladding, including where consent of the owners cannot be provided. The proposals also include the creation and maintenance of a Cladding Assurance Register to give residents confidence about the assessment and works undertaken once those buildings are remediated. The Committee Report stresses the importance of improving communication for those people affected both from the SG and developers. 

With a parliamentary debate due in March 2024, provided the Bill can move forward, we understand that the legislation process will be concluded by late Summer 2024. This will allow remediation of buildings where apathy exists in achieving agreement to remediate on buildings where the collective duty holders (homeowners) cannot achieve agreement via the legal process, due to apathy within the freehold system as previously advised in communications by us in 2023.

Where homebuilders are involved in the Accord Programme (noted in point 1 above) for remediating buildings which they have constructed, we have been informed that agreement has been reached between SG and the vast majority of homebuilders, on the standard of which buildings will be remediated to. 

The Property Managers Association Scotland (PMAS) and factoring companies continue to have various meetings with SG. PMAS has received information on the process, which is noted below.

We had highlighted some key issues surrounding this matter not being part of the factoring remit, including the fact that Property Factors are facility managers and that their PI Insurance may not cover exposure to comment on building types, construction, or structure. It was highlighted to SG that where some factors are willing to assist, we do not have the technical knowledge, insurance or, receive a management fee that would cover this level of exposure.

The following items have been discussed with SG:

  • Project manager being appointed to submit the application form on homeowner’s behalf. Funded by SG.
  • Project manager being appointed to write specifications, send out tenders and manage the contract process for fire safety surveys. Funded by SG.
  • SG will authorise the supplier to be appointed following the application/tender process.
  • The surveys will identify the remedial work required. SG have not committed or commented on remedial work funding at this time.
  • Associated cost to the factor will also be considered for facilitating the process.

SG will confirm, following an update on progress in early Summer of 2024. However, we are working with the homeowners group High Rise Scotland, to ensure that our homeowners are advised with regular updates every 6-8 weeks.

It should be noted that there are 4 descriptions of buildings affected by fire safety/cladding issues:

  1. Orphaned Buildings.This is where the homebuilder/developer no longer exists - SG will facilitate remediation.
  2. Homebuilder remains in operation. Discussions on remediation between SG and homebuilder.
  3. Homebuilder joint ventures.Discussions on remediation between SG and homebuilder.
  4. Wear and tear issues. This is where the homebuilder or other parties are not accountable for lack of maintenance on a building surrounding requirements for fires safety/external wall systems. SG will liaise with homeowners in this regard.

What does this mean for developments we know of and are not on the pilot scheme?

Further updates can be expected from SG direct to buildings in early summer 2024, when points 1 and 2 above have been concluded. 

If you are a James Gibb managed building that has known fire safety and external wall systems with us, your building will be on Pathway 2 as above.

What is the Property Management, Agent/Factor’s Remit?

This is not the factor’s remit, but as a company/industry we have agreed with SG that we will communicate with homeowners on their behalf and facilitate funds only.

We will not be project managing any of this process but will be the point of liaison, in communications with homeowners.

SG have accepted that we will apply a fee to this process for our additional time and resource, as it is a non-core service. Like Project Management Fees. We are not surveyors and do not have PI insurance to be involved in any work on this basis. We should not be instructing, or supervising work and homeowners/factors will not be asked to do so. Factors should not become involved other than facilitation of funds, communication flow and meetings.

What is the up-to-date position on the surveys conducted at my development? 

If remediation has commenced, your Project Manager will confirm the latest updates, or you can expect communication from SG.

It should be noted that SG is not only requesting external wall surveys, but internal fire system reviews also.

We hope that this update assists.

James Gibb provides residential and commercial customers with help and advice on legislative and regulatory change and issues of concern or interest within the Property Management and Factoring business sector.

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