Please Note: This Article is 2 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

Fire Safety:

Owners, landlords and managers of tower blocks in the private rented sector in England are being asked to check external cladding to be paid for by Government.

Following the devastating Grenfell Tower tragedy in Kensington, owners, landlords and managers of high rise private residential blocks in England have been advised by Government to check their buildings fire safety arrangements.

After a similar fire on a smaller scale in Southwark in 2009, where six people, including three children, died in the fire in the 14-storey Lakanal House, after becoming trapped on the 11th floor, an inquiry looked into the potential risks which external cladding on tower blocks posed to fire spreading.

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The Southwark inquiry committee sent letters to all metropolitan borough councils to assess the extent of the possible threat at that time. It was estimated that there were around 3,500 residential tower blocks higher than 10 storeys in the UK and that 500 were fitted with external cladding.

The Southwark inquiry recommended then that:

“The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Housing Corporation instruct local authorities and registered social landlords to undertake a review of their existing building stock with a view to ascertaining how many multi-storey buildings are currently using external cladding systems; and how many cladding systems are in use which, whilst complying with the regulations in force at the time when they were installed, do not comply with current regulations.”

Melanie Dawes, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), has now written to owners in the private rental sector (PRS) informing them that help is being made available for them to check their buildings following concerns after Grenfell Tower.

Free testing is being made available for cladding that may be the same as that used in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, with priority given to blocks over six storeys or 18 meters high. However, the cost of any remedial work will have to be met by owners.

Melanie Dawes says in her letter:

“There has been much public concern and comment about potential flaws in the cladding that was on Grenfell Tower. While the exact reasons for the speed of the spread of fire have yet to be determined, we have concluded that there are additional tests that can be undertaken with regard to the cladding.

“We have asked local authorities and social housing providers to identify whether any panels used in new build or refurbishment of their own housing stock are a particular type of cladding made of Aluminium Composite Material (ACM). These checks will be relevant to privately owned and managed residential buildings too, so please can you consider carrying out these checks on your buildings.

“If you identify that cladding on any of your buildings is made of ACM, then a sample can be tested. This testing facility is also being made available to blocks that are privately owned, and your local authority may already have been in touch to make you aware of this.

“Where the entire block is not owned and managed by the same party, please ensure that only one sample is provided and that any necessary permissions are obtained for taking and sending off the sample.

“We would not expect individual leaseholders within a building to send off samples for testing. As well as this work it is of course important that owners/landlords have robust fire assessments for their properties,” says the letter.

Melanie Dawes explains in here letter that the testing will be paid for by the DCLG and the cost of any remedial action will be the responsibility of the owner of the building. Any questions should be sent to PRShousingchecks@communities.gsi.gov.uk.

Please Note: This Article is 2 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

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