Same ‘unsafe’ cladding installed on other London towers
LONDON councils are urgently checking the safety of local tower blocks to ensure they’re not susceptible to the same devastation as Grenfell Tower.
Council chiefs in Camden, Newham, Croydon and Redbridge all said they were carrying out safety checks.
Officials said they would undertake assessments to see if action needs to be taken but said that robust safety measures were already in place.
The Local Government Association said it was reviewing fire risk assessments and checking remedial work had actually been carried out.
Though thorough investigations have yet to take place, early indications point to external cladding fitted to Grenfell last year created a “chimney” that helped the fire spread from the fourth to 18th floor in eight minutes.
Flats are designed to contain fires for at least 20 minutes but renovations may have created gaps in fire insulation.
Contractors Harley Facades Ltd and Rydon which carried out the Grenfell cladding also worked together on the refurbishment of 23-storey Ferrier Point in Canning Town, Newham, fitting it with the same aluminium rainscreen cladding.
Newham Council said: “All of our buildings are subject to strict fire risk assessments with remedial action if required.
“Following the fire in Kensington and Chelsea, we are carrying out further assessments on our tall blocks to see if any action needs to be taken.” Wandsworth and Hounslow councils were also consulting residents to provide information and reassurance.
Commenting on the review plans, Defend Council Housing campaign group’s Eileen Short told the Star that any safety checks would need to be backed with a commitment to fund improvement works.
“After the Lakanal fire [in a tower block in Camberwell, south London, where six people died in 2009], there were recommendations but the report was sat on,” she said.
“I defy anyone to show us this isn’t about the money. This is about money and what [the government] is prepared to spend on protecting people’s lives.”
She condemned Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, who has spoken about “knocking down” tower blocks, and comments by his predecessor Eric Pickles who had discussed commercially exploiting brownfield sites upon which tower blocks are built.
Ms Short fumed: “They want the land, but not the people on it.”
The British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association said that only 100 tower blocks of the 4,000 in Britain have been fitted with sprinklers.
Regulations requiring sprinklers only apply to blocks built after 2007 and it’s up to local authorities to decide whether buildings have to be retrospectively fitted.
The association estimates that sprinklers could have been fit in Grenfell for around £200,000 — around 2 per cent of last year’s refurbishment cost.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell urged Westminster to lift the housing revenue cap to allow councils to “undertake the urgent retrofitting work required on all existing housing stock found not to meet required safety standards.”
He said: “Councils must also be given the power, as Labour’s housing manifesto pledges to do, to borrow to invest in council housing on the scale necessary to allow all those living in homes deemed to be unsafe to be properly rehoused.”