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Fire marshals patrol Ipswich flats 24/7 amid cladding fears

PUBLISHED: 08:44 17 November 2020 | UPDATED: 16:38 17 November 2020

Cardinal Lofts, in Ipswich where there are concerns about the cladding Picture: Archant

Cardinal Lofts, in Ipswich where there are concerns about the cladding Picture: Archant

Fire marshals are patrolling an Ipswich Waterfront tower block 24 hours a day after inspectors raised fears about fire safety.

Sarah Cushion has a buy-let-flat in Cardinal Lofts. Photo: Sarah CushionSarah Cushion has a buy-let-flat in Cardinal Lofts. Photo: Sarah Cushion

But the move has left leaseholders at Cardinal Lofts frustrated after they were sent a bill to cover the £5,600-a-week marshals.

Up until the end of the year, owners will have to pay more than £44,000 for the “waking watch” which will be in place until a new fire alarm system can be installed on the top floors.

The former warehouse, which was converted into apartments in 2004, was inspected twice this year, in July and September, with fire safety deemed so poor that the “waking watch” was recommended to monitor the building 24/7.

Sarah Cushion, who has a buy-to-let flat in the block, said she understood safety was the most important thing but was shocked to be sent a bill of almost £400.

Cardinal Lofts on Ipswich Waterfront where a 'waking watch' is needed to protect residents from fire risk Picture: ArchantCardinal Lofts on Ipswich Waterfront where a 'waking watch' is needed to protect residents from fire risk Picture: Archant

“That is on top of the service charge and ground rent and this is for the foreseeable future,” the 46-year old from Norwich said.

“It is also before we get to any of the costs of potentially replacing the cladding.”

A fire risk assessment in 2018 found cladding on the building which needed further inspection.

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It said that a type of cladding called aluminium composite material (ACM) could be present.

Following the Grenfell tragedy in 2017, certain types of cladding were banned on blocks over 18 metres.

Cardinal Lofts is 32m and the report said the main issue was on the upper floors.

A fire survey said there were “potentially large amounts of combustible materials forming part of the external wall build-up”.

It also found there was a lack of material to stop fire within the external walls, meaning a blaze would spread faster.

“There appears to be no cavity barriers and potential poor to non-existent fire stopping in the external build-up, particularly at levels 5 and above,” it said.

They said further inspection was needed.

In a letter to leaseholders last week, Block Management UK, which runs the property, said the building’s owner had applied for government funding to fix the cladding.

It is the second block of flats in Ipswich to have cladding problems.

As reported last month, The Mill also has flaws in its cladding which is the subject of an ongoing legal dispute.


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