Welsh government threatens Watkin Jones over remediation

A Welsh Government minister has criticised developer Watkin Jones for failing to sign a building remediation contract – and said she was considering a range of measures to ensure it does so.

Last year the Welsh Government asked developers to sign a contract that commits them to address fire-safety issues relating to the construction of buildings. These developers must draw up a plan to undertake remediation work, at no cost to leaseholders.

But in a statement on Monday (4 March), minister for climate change Julie James said: “I am disappointed […] that Watkin Jones are yet to sign our contract.”

She added: “I do not consider this to be acceptable. I have made it clear, and will do so again when I meet Watkins Jones, that I will consider all options available, including prohibitions on development, to ensure developers step up to their responsibilities.”

James pointed out that 11 major developers had already signed up to the contract.

The Welsh Building Safety Programme has two key parts: reforming the building-safety regime in Wales and dealing with fire-safety issues in buildings 11 metres and above in existing Welsh building stock, which will cover external cladding and internal fire-safety issues.

When asked for a response to James’s comments, a Watkin Jones spokesperson said: “Building safety is of paramount importance to Watkin Jones and we have actively engaged with the Welsh minister and her team over a number of months on this issue.

“We are aware of one development in Wales which requires remediation and we have committed to funding the cost of works at that property to ensure that we are fulfilling our obligations as a responsible developer.”

The spokesperson added: “The position in England is clear and on that basis we signed the remediation contract, ensuring the remediation of our legacy leaseholder building portfolio in England. We continue to engage with the Welsh Government to gain equal clarity on the position in Wales.”

Watkin Jones announced a pre-tax loss of £42.5m in January 2024, with £35m of that eaten up by building-safety remediation costs.

A prior announcement in July 2023 stated that the company was facing up to £45m of exceptional costs.

At the time the company said it expected “to increase our exceptional provision for remedial works for legacy properties by an additional £30m to £35m”, with the money relating to updated cost estimates on remedial work and the repayment of government remediation funds.

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