25th June 2017
Since the catastrophic loss of life at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, inspections of similar, potentially unsafe locations have been underway across the country.
Camden Council in London were very quick to spot the potential dangers and undertook urgent tests. These involved physically taking samples of ‘fireproof’ cladding from tower blocks and sending them to be examined at the Building Research Establishment in Watford.
Camden Council quickly discovered, on Wednesday evening 21st June 2017, that the cladding at blocks on the Chalcots Estate, although commissioned as ‘fireproof’, were in fact an inferior product. In other words, they may have been duped – apparently by the same contractor / sub-contractor combination who fitted the cladding at Grenfell Tower.
Here on Wirral, statements were issued by Councillors Phil Davies (Council Leader) and George Davies (Deputy, Housing and Community Safety) at a Cabinet meeting on 19th June 2017, here:
However upon examining these statements, issued by email on 21st June, we found that there was no mention of reactive, independent testing and that they fell way short of providing instant reassurance to the relevant Wirral tower block tenants.
Eight of Wirral’s total of eleven high-rise tower blocks – not identified by name in the council statements – are run by Magenta Housing, the arm’s length organisation with control of the majority of Wirral Council’s former housing stock.
The remaining three are privately owned – also not named – but one of these is assumed to be Liscard House in Wallasey (see image above), which underwent renovation, including the retro-fitting of insulation cladding in 2011. We were reassured here by Alumasc Facade Systems that the cladding used does not contain the ACM (Aluminium Composite Material) used at Grenfell Tower.
Two senior Wirral members and former leaders of their respective parties sit on the board of Magenta Housing: Councillor Steve Foulkes and Councillor Jeff Green.
On 22nd June, we contacted our local councillor Adrian Jones (Chair of the Audit & Risk Management Committee) to advise him that public statements made so far appeared insufficient and that Camden-style physical testing may need to be undertaken. He promised us he would follow it up. We sent the following email at his request:
Time is of the essence, official information is still sparse and hard to come by, and as tenants await official reassurance, the questions left to be answered now are:
- How many Wirral people are potentially in danger?
- Which high-rise towers are affected?
- Who owns and runs these buildings?
- How many more public and private buildings are implicated?
- When will the promised “COBRA” meeting take place?
- Will Wirral Council / Magenta Housing be commissioning Camden-style physical testing of existing cladding on their own high-rise buildings?
- Finally, both Wirral Council and Mersey Fire Authority assure us that they have been undertaking annual safety inspections. We will assume for now that these were successful and the cladding was safe, however…
…as we post this item, Camden Council have started evacuating up to 4,000 of their tenants and the seriousness of the situation has intensified. See the following, which details how all 34 separate cladding tests undertaken by the BRE have failed.
*STOP PRESS* This failure rate has now risen to 60 samples, all failed.
Presumably the affected councils may well be evacuating huge numbers of their tenants over into secure temporary accommodation while their homes are made safe:
More on the Camden evacuation – including gas pipes not boxed in and the potential for exploding boilers:
Recent TV News coverage: