LEASEHOLDERS are to be pursued for costly overhauls after a block of flats was found to have similar cladding to that which caused the Grenfell fire.

Nova House in Buckingham Gardens, Slough, is currently home to between 200-250 people and as reported last week, estimates suggest overhauling the dangerous cladding will cost as much as £4 million.

But during an extraordinary meeting of the Slough Borough Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, it was heard that the authority intends to recoup its losses from the building’s leaseholders, many of whom are foreign investors. This is because the council is in the process of taking over the building to make the urgent safety improvements itself.

Mike England, interim place and development officer, said: “The Leaseholders will be required to pay the costs. If they don’t, they will forfeit the property, and it will revert back to the owner. The costs will be recovered from the owners of the flats, not the people living in them.”

Mr England explained this would be the first time nationally that a building had been acquired by a local authority in relation to the Grenfell tower fire.

Cllr James Swindlehurst said: “My only concern is that this runs a substantial risk for the council. Buying the building makes it exclusively a problem for us. We should be going after the insurance – the leaseholders have insurance.”

Cllr Wal Chalal said: “I feel a bit stitched up, to be fair. It angers me that they (the freeholders) will get away from this scot-free.”

The committee, which met on Monday, had no power to overrule the council’s decision to buy the freehold company of Nova House, Ground Rents Estates 5 Limited (GRE5), which will ultimately give it ownership of the building. It could only make recommendations. A number of councillors felt that the decision had been ‘rushed’ and they had little say in the negotiations.

Chairwoman, Cllr Shabnum Sadiq, said: “We agree to take no further action. In future circumstances such as this, however, we should improve transparency and communication.”

A council spokeswoman said: “We’re looking at all kinds of options to recover the money, like the leaseholders, the insurance companies, and even taking legal action against the people who built Nova House.”

A private fire engine has been placed on permanent, 24-hour duty outside the building, the cladding on which has suffered a ‘Category 3’ failure in fire tests, the worst rating possible.

The council has previously said that it lacked confidence in GRE5 to make the necessary overhauls quickly enough, and therefore is now in negotiations to buy the company.