Brennan Bank tower block in Norwich is among 60 to have failed cladding fire safety tests after Grenfell tower tragedy
PUBLISHED: 19:04 25 June 2017 | UPDATED: 09:00 26 June 2017
An apartment block in Norwich is said to be among scores of high and mid-rise buildings across the country which have now failed fire cladding safety tests after the Grenfell Tower disaster, it has emerged.
The government has said cladding on 60 high-rise buildings across 25 local authority areas in England, including Norwich, has failed safety tests in the wake of the tragedy which has claimed the lives of at least 79 people.
Although not all the buildings affected have so far been named it is understood the block in Norwich is Brennan Bank on Geoffrey Watling Way.
Broadland Housing Association said it has acted swiftly to ensure the safety of tenants, following the Grenfell Tower fire.
A statement on its website said: “Following testing by the Building Research Establishment on Friday 23 June, a sample of cladding from Broadland Housing’s Brennan Bank on Geoffrey Watling Way was found to be a current cause for concern in high-rise buildings, although it compares with building regulations and has been used in accordance with the approved plans.
“Although Broadland Housing only has medium-rise properties (of six storeys or fewer), it immediately called an review meeting.
“This was held at its offices on Saturday, June 24 with representatives from Broadland Housing, Norwich City Council, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, developer Taylor Wimpey and managing agents of the adjacent blocks.
“The review meeting discussed the safety implications of the cladding and reviewed the fire risk assessments for all the blocks in question.
“The review concluded that the risks posed by the cladding can be mitigated by remedial action in the short term. A letter has been delivered to residents of the affected blocks today, informing them that:
• A trained warden will be employed to inspect the blocks and reassure and advise residents about fire safety, 24/7.
• Advice has been provided to residents about fire safety in their homes and in the communal areas. Norwich Fire and Rescue Service will also offer residents home fire safety checks.
• In the interim, and until further notice, Norwich Fire and Rescue Service has strongly recommended that the current evacuation policy to ‘stay put’ is replaced by a policy to ‘evacuate immediately’ in the case of a fire.
• In the interim, parking under the blocks will be suspended and alternative parking arrangements will be made for residents.
Developer Taylor Wimpey has given the same advice to residents of its private apartments in neighbouring buildings, which are of the same construction.
One woman who lives at Brennan Bank, who did not want to be named, said: “It scares us. That’s not good. We live on the top floor.
“It scares us because we know what happens. There’s only the stairs to come down.”
Another woman, who did not want to be named, was returning to her flat to pick up some stuff before staying at a friend’s house.
She said: “I’m staying at a friend’s. I don’t feel safe.”
Louise Archer, executive property director, for Broadland Housing, said: “Although we don’t have any high-rise properties, only medium-rise, we wanted to put additional measures in place to reassure our tenants,” explained Louise Archer, Executive Property Director, Broadland Housing.
James Belcher, head of planning at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We have been providing advice to Broadland Housing Association, Taylor Wimpey and the managing agents of adjacent blocks, and having reviewed their fire risk assessments, have agreed how the risk of a fire starting in these buildings could be reduced even further.
“We are confident in the additional measures that will be put in place to help keep residents safe. As an additional precaution, we have also made sure that in the event of a fire at these buildings, we would be able to respond with extra fire engines. I understand residents may still have concerns so fire service officers have have been going door to door in these buildings today giving advice and reassurance, answering questions and leaving contact details in case anyone wants to book a home fire risk check.”
Broadland Housing complied with a request from the Department of Local Government and Communities (DCLG) request for all councils and housing associations to submit information about any buildings of six storeys and above that they own or manage.
Any organisations that reported that they had cladding of any kind on their buildings were subsequently asked to submit a sample to the Building Research Establishment. Broadland Housing complied with that request, and late on Friday 23 June, BHA was informed by the DCLG that the cladding which had been tested on Brennan Bank was a current cause for concern.
A Taylor Wimpey spokesman said: “Following a review of the fire safety of the cladding at our NR1 development in Norwich and testing carried out by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), we were made aware of a potential cause for concern. The safety of residents is our number one priority. We took immediate and expert advice from Norfolk Fire and Rescue and Norwich City Council who have reassured us that it is safe for residents to remain in their homes, based on the building design and robust fire safety procedures already in place.
“We have written to all residents on the development to advise them of the situation and to provide reassurance on the fire safety procedures on site. Based on the above advice, we have also advised residents of some additional interim procedures that have been put in place as a precautionary measure.”
The new figure revealed by the government is double the 34 tower blocks found to be wrapped in cladding in the previous update given on Saturday.
Not all the buildings affected have so far been named but a list from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) identifies 14 of the areas, which includes Norwich, Doncaster, Stockton-on-Tees and Sunderland, while Manchester, Plymouth and Portsmouth have already been named.
Islington, Lambeth and Wandsworth joined Barnet, Brent, Camden and Hounslow on the growing list of London boroughs, while 11 other areas are yet to be named.
Hundreds more blocks are still yet to be tested, with the Department for Communities and Local Government estimating that around 600 residential tower blocks nationally are fitted with cladding.
Officials said that local authorities and fire services in affected areas had been contacted with support.
“All landlords and fire and rescue services for these local authorities have been alerted to the results and we are in touch with all of them to support and monitor follow-up action,” they said.
They have urged for cladding samples to be sent as quickly as possible, adding that lab facilities can work around the clock to process up to 100 tests per day
The government is facing calls from councils to step up its funding in the wake of the Grenfell fire to help with evacuations and renovations of other potentially at risk tower blocks.