Hundreds of buildings still at risk of another Grenfell scale tragedy

Grenfell Tower
Fréa Lockley

A Freedom of Information (FOI) response to Inside Housing has revealed that government funding to remove Grenfell Tower style cladding is not available for some buildings. This followed news that only 15% of similar cladding has been removed from privately owned high-rise buildings. 72 people were killed in the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June 2017. A report for the public inquiry said that, among other things, evidence “strongly supports” the idea that the tower’s cladding played a role in the fire’s spread.

“No legal obligation for the owner to remove the dangerous material”

On 28 January, Inside Housing reported that:

A social housing tower block with Grenfell-style cladding was denied funding for the removal of the dangerous material because it was 64cm too short.

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In June 2018, the government made a £400m pot of funding available for councils and housing associations to “strip dangerous combinations of aluminium cladding and insulation” from high rise buildings. So far, £248m has funded removal from 135 tower blocks. But this FOI request revealed that 12 blocks were denied funding and “didn’t meet the application criteria”. Three of those “were below the 18m [metres] which building regulations use to define a high rise”.

As Inside Housing reported, one tower block was “17.36m – just 64cm below the threshold”. But this building is “highly likely to be six stories high”. This means any fire could pose a similar threat to lives as at Grenfell. It stated:

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But because of its height, no funding will be provided and there is no legal obligation for the owner to remove the dangerous material.

It’s thought the government does plan “to review the 18m threshold”. But until this happens, many buildings are still at risk of another Grenfell scale tragedy.

Steve Reed, Labour MP and fire safety campaigner, told Inside Housing this was “nonsensical”. He stated that “the only way to guarantee there will be no more Grenfells” is to remove “all flammable cladding on residential blocks”.

“People are left living in fear”

In the private sector, meanwhile, HuffPost reported that:

At Prime Minister’s Questions…Theresa May said 56 building owners were “refusing” to remove dangerous cladding from private buildings.

Housing minister Kit Malthouse, however, downplayed safety concerns. He said that “100%” of the 56 buildings “have temporary measures in place”. He insisted that measures were “certified’ as “appropriate” by local fire services.

Official figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government revealed that dangerous cladding – similar to that used on Grenfell Tower – has only been removed from 15% of high-rise buildings. HuffPost reported that “aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding” has only been stripped from “67 of 437 buildings in England above 18 metres”.

As a result, “370 high-rises” are likely to be falling short of “current building regulations”. Around 238 are privately owned properties. These buildings include student accommodation, private homes and hotels.

But Reed said that until cladding is removed, “people are left living in fear”.

As The Canary has also reported, there are similar concerns about the safety of fire doors in both council-owned and private buildings.

Featured image via Paula Peters – Twitter

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    1. Ever since Thatcher downgraded Building Regulations to guidance in England and Wales, standards of construction have steadily declined. Then in 1997 Major privatised Building Control, and there you have it. Shoddy compartmentation between flats, useless fire doors, and unsafe escape routes for when the ‘staying put’ policy is abandoned.

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