COSTS to remove Grenfell-like cladding and install safety measures at a Slough apartment block has skyrocketed to £19.6m.

In a response to the 2017 Grenfell Tower tragedy, Slough Borough Council bought the shares of the owner of a converted office block called Nova House, Ground Rent Estate 5 Limited (GRE5), in 2018 for £1.

The cladding at the 68 apartment block in Buckingham Garden block failed two safety inspections and significant defects were found.

Costs were originally predicted to be less than £10m but costs spiralled as works have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and additional tests and surveys uncovered further defects and technical issues.

In an update report, all of the cladding was removed in January and a fire-resistant weatherproof membrane was installed.

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“Further work” needs to be done to sort out the remaining issues. This includes installing an internal water sprinkler system and internal fire compartmentation in communal areas.

Speaking at an overview and scrutiny meeting on Thursday, April 7, group manager Fin Garvey said he “can’t be confident” that they have unearthed all of the defects.

He said: “The more investigation we do, the more confident we can become, but at the moment we can’t be certain that we have uncovered all of the issues.

“All we can do is progress as far as possible and consistently monitor it.”

Council officers believe the current programme of work should be completed in 2023.

The council agreed to loan £10.3m to make the building safe. A grant from Homes England provided the remaining £9.3m.

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GRE5 and the leaseholders are currently engaged in legal proceedings with Alliance, the insurance-backed warranty provider for the building, to claw back some of the costs.

GRE5 is currently seeking legal advice on reclaiming costs from leaseholders.

Cllr Dexter Smith (Con: Colnbrook with Poyle) said: “All of us have sympathy with the fact that not only are the leaseholders having that threat of a large financial exposure hanging over them, but they have had to live in this building for the last three years while this is all going around and the news for them gets worse and worse.

“I commend the council and the officers for what they’ve done for improving the situation and improving the physical environment, but I think we as a council having taken that responsibility rightly or wrongly in the first place off of the hands of a developer before we move to any recovery money from leaseholders, they need to debate that and discuss the ethics of that.”

Mr Garvey said the developer of Nova House avoided liability by liquidating its company.