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