In the absence of any definitive statements from Croydon Council’s leadership to reassure residents regarding building materials and techniques used on the borough’s residential towers following this week’s horrifying fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington, a senior official with direct experience of the cladding work has come forward and provided more detail.
Reports today suggest that the cladding used at Grenfell Tower, in work completed last year, has been banned in the United States as unsafe. The cladding panels used on that block were each £2 cheaper than other panels with fire-retardant properties. By using the cheaper panels the block’s management company saved around £5,000.
There are fears that the death toll in Grenfell Tower could be more than 50 people.
The Grenfell Action Group of residents had been expressing serious concerns over safety issues for four years before this week’s fire, as they highlighted issues over emergency access, dangerous power surges and concerns about the standard of work carried out on the exterior of the block.
The methods used over the past two decades to fit insulation cladding on Croydon’s council blocks vary significantly to that used in Kensington, according to our source.
The Wates-built blocks at various locations around the borough originally date from the 1970s. Like Lakanal House in Southwark, scene of the 2009 fire which claimed six lives, and Grenfell Tower, the blocks in Croydon did not have a sprinkler system installed when they were built, something which the coroner in the Lakanal inquest in 2013 recommended should be fitted on all residential towers. It was this key proposal, and other recommendations, which Eric Pickles, Gavin Barwell and a succession of other housing ministers had failed to implement in the past four years.
None of Croydon’s residential blocks are more than 12 storeys tall. Their cream-, terracotta- or green-coloured cladded blocks were fitted in the last 20 years or so. “Non-combustible rock-wall insulation was mechanically fixed to the structure and covered with polyester-powder coated aluminium removable cladding system panels,” the source said. “The windows are also aluminium so they are non-combustible.
“We should not be installing UPVc windows into high-rise blocks as these just melt and assist the spread of the fire.”
This work was conducted by Baco Systems.
More recently, in 2012, Acorn Spencer was hired by Croydon Council to assist with intumescent fire and smoke seal issues in the tower blocks. Intumescent seals swell up when heated, protecting the material underneath or sealing a gap in the event of fire.
Acorn Spencer has said, “It soon became apparent that there was a lot more work required to raise the blocks up to current regulations. Several weeks of surveying resulted in intumescent fire and smoke seals, signage, hinges, door closers and general fire stopping products being fitted.”
More than 300 door closers were fitted and thousands of metres of fire and smoke seals were fitted in a project which cost the council £2million per block.
Croydon Council’s £185,000 per year chief exec, Jo Negrini, was unavailable yesterday to offer any information to the borough’s residents, as she was too busy pimping off council buildings and sites to international property speculators at a real estate piss up on Berkeley Square.
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