An Executive funded project to remove unsafe cladding from an apartment block in Belfast is set to cost £400,000 and take six months to complete, the Assembly has heard.
Finance Minister Conor Murphy told MLAs that the Victoria Place apartment block off Sandy Row in the south of the city was the only building found to qualify for a £1 million fund to pay for the removal of aluminium composite material (ACM) from private residential buildings over 18 metres tall.
The initiative was set up in response to the Grenfell Tower disaster in west London in 2017 when 72 were killed in a fire that spread rapidly due to flammable cladding on the building.
Mr Murphy said while only one high rise building in Northern Ireland had been found to have ACM cladding he said eleven others were identified as having other types of cladding that could also be potentially unsafe.
We don't have the same type of landscape in terms of buildings as they do in Britain, we've much less high rises here.Conor Murphy
He told MLAs that the remaining money in the fund may be used for remedial works on those properties.
Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie raised the cladding issue during Assembly question time, asking why only one application to the fund had been received by the deadline at the end of October.
“We don’t have the same type of landscape in terms of buildings as they do in Britain, we’ve much less high rises here,” replied Mr Murphy.
“And fortunately, particularly for people who live in such buildings, there was only one building that was able to qualify under the criteria in terms of ACM.
“We did as part of that exercise look at a range of other non-ACM cladding which might be considered to be unsafe and I think we have about 11 buildings have come in for that and will take another programme.”
He said if the Victoria Place application was approved the project would cost in the region of £400,000.
“That would mean more than half of that million pounds is yet to be used,” he added.
“But we are looking as a consequence of the other feedback we’ve got in relation to other buildings to see what programmes are needed in the future.”
In response to a follow-up question from party colleague and North Belfast MLA Caral Ni Chuilin, who asked about plans for tower blocks in her constituency, the Sinn Fein minister added: “We are in discussion with the Department of Communities and the Housing Executive on how that might be taken forward. So we’re hoping to make progress on that in the near future.”
When challenged by SDLP MLA Justin McNulty on why action had not been taken sooner after Grenfell, Mr Murphy explained that there was no Stormont department that had responsibility for such issues.
He said the Department of Finance had taken on the role at the request of the head of the civil service.