Res­i­dents near Gren­fell told cladding must be re­moved ‘with­out de­lay’

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Di­ane Tay­lor

Hun­dreds of res­i­dents in homes close to Gren­fell Tower are fac­ing a very cold Christ­mas af­ter coun­cil chiefs told them the cladding on two tower blocks is a sub­stan­tial fire haz­ard and must be re­moved with­out de­lay.

Res­i­dents of Adair and Hazel­wood Tow­ers re­ceived let­ters from the coun­cil on Thurs­day in­form­ing them that works to re­place the in­su­la­tion ren­der on the out­side of their blocks will be start­ing next week. Up­dated gov­ern­ment ad­vice on ex­ter­nal cladding to tower blocks was is­sued last month.

The in­su­la­tion ma­te­ri­als are not the same as those used on Gren­fell Tower. But the ma­te­ri­als, known as EPS – ex­panded poly­styrene sys­tem, have now also been deemed to be a fire risk.

The cladding on the two blocks was in­stalled in 1992 and 1993. The two 14-storey blocks date back to 1958 and con­tain 156 one- and two-bed­roomed flats. The re­moval of the cladding is so ur­gent that the coun­cil has waived ten­der­ing re­quire­ments and awarded a con­tract worth in ex­cess of £500,000 to D&B Fa­cades UK.

Res­i­dents are an­gry that the works – ex­pected to take five to six months – will be car­ried out dur­ing the cold­est months of the year in blocks they say are al­ready cold. Coun­cil of­fi­cials have ac­knowl­edged the works will leave res­i­dents cold and say they are dis­cussing mea­sures to ame­lio­rate this, but have not said what ex­actly they are plan­ning to do.

One res­i­dent, Dar­ren Turner, said: “A lot of res­i­dents are very an­gry this work is tak­ing place dur­ing the cold­est months and over the Christ­mas pe­riod. Liv­ing in build­ings with no in­su­la­tion for sev­eral months is go­ing to be re­ally in­tense and will af­fect a lot of peo­ple.”

Con­cern about the fire risk is so great coun­cil of­fi­cials have moved 24-hour fire war­dens into the two blocks at a cost of £26,000 a week un­til the cladding ma­te­ri­als have been re­moved.

A spokesman for the Royal Bor­ough of Kens­ing­ton and Chelsea said that the coun­cil started look­ing at fire safety is­sues af­ter it took back re­spon­si­bil­ity for coun­cil hous­ing. Pre­vi­ously a ten­ants’ man­age­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion had man­aged the bor­ough’s coun­cil prop­er­ties.

Since the Gren­fell Tower dis­as­ter there have been two fires in flats in Hazel­wood. Both have been con­tained within the flats they started in.

While the ren­dered in­su­lat­ing sys­tem com­plied with all the reg­u­la­tions at the time of in­stal­la­tion in the early 1990s, con­cerns have now been raised about its safety and so a de­ci­sion was taken to ur­gently re­move it.

An RBKC spokesman said: “Res­i­dents will not be moved out while the work is done… We will dis­cuss with res­i­dents what ad­di­tional as­sis­tance we can pro­vide in re­la­tion to cold.”

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