Lowestoft tower block safety questioned amid cladding risk disagreement

St Peters Court in Lowestoft has had its fire safety measures reviewed following the Grenfell Tower

St Peters Court in Lowestoft has had its fire safety measures reviewed following the Grenfell Tower fire in London Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

A detailed study of cladding on a tower block in Lowestoft is set to take place this year, after experts failed to agree on whether it is a fire hazard.

St Peters Court in Chapel Street, Lowestoft, was subject to a review of its fire safety measures after the Grenfell tragedy in June 2017, which claimed the lives of 72 people.

Internal improvements have included a new fire detection system being installed, new fire doors on properties and work on a £200,000 sprinkler system getting underway.

But a report presented to Waveney District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee has revealed that there is disagreement over the risk the 16-storey building’s cladding possesses – including claims that the material may not be what was believed to have been fitted.

The report said: “The external cladding system has been a topic of debate and is subject to slightly differing views.

“Records are held of the system installed in 2001, along with building control records ensuring installation criteria was met.

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“The material and installation are completely different from the system installed at Grenfell Tower.”

The report said one view was that the risk posed was “extremely low” because the cladding was fully encased, meaning fire could not spread from within the material.

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But the report added: “An alternative view posed by SFRS (Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service) at a meeting on November 23 is that the product actually fitted may differ from that believed fitted, installation methods cannot be guaranteed when building control were not available.”

It means that work obtaining random samples will get underway early this year to make sure its risk is identified.

The cost of the survey and any mitigation if needed is not yet clear.

A spokesman from SFRS said: “Since the Grenfell Tower fire, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service has worked closely with the occupiers and owners of many high rise buildings in Suffolk, to offer advice and guidance.

“This includes working with local councils like Waveney District Council in relation to St Peters Court in Lowestoft, who reviewed the premises Fire Risk Assessment in 2017.

“We are pleased they are proceeding with the recommendations as outlined in the council’s latest scrutiny report, including the sampling testing of the external cladding system to ascertain the precise construction method and materials used.

“We are also pleased to note that with works ongoing, the overall fire risk level for the block has reduced as recorded in the 2018 Fire Risk Assessment.”

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