Council writes to residents to state its blocks are safe

A senior Croydon Council official has written to all residents in the borough’s residential blocks to reassure them and confirm that the hazardous cladding which is suspected of contributing to so much death and destruction in the Grenfell Tower blaze has not been used on their buildings. The letter, dated last Friday, June 23, states that inspections are on-going and could take a further two weeks to complete.

Stephen Tate, the council’s director of district centres and regeneration, had this second letter distributed to the residents of Croydon-owned or managed blocks over the weekend, just as it was being reported nationally that of 60 tower blocks who had had their cladding checked by government inspectors, all of them failed safety tests.

The cladding used at Grenfell is believed to have accelerated the spread of the fire and also emitted toxic fumes which will also have added to the death toll. The matter is now subject of a police investigation.

But in Croydon Council’s latest letter to residents, Tate writes: “Over the last week, all 16 cladded blocks have been surveyed. Our surveys have confirmed our records of the cladding consisting of a 3mm powder coated aluminium panel containing a non-combustible (doesn’t burn easily) mineral wool insulation material (Rockwool). No glue or adhesive is used in the system.

“This cladding system has very high fire retardant properties. In addition, the cladding system acts as a fire barrier between each floor.”

Elsewhere in London, notably Camden, whole tower blocks have been evacuated because of fears about the safety of the flats, while 24/7 fire warden patrols have been introduced elsewhere while those blocks have their cladding removed as an emergency measure.

The Croydon Council letter makes no mention of whether cladding used on the borough’s towers had been submitted to the government inspection system for safety checks.

The BBC reported 10 days ago, soon after the Grenfell fire, that residential towers in Croydon had had work carried out by the same company which had overseen the installation of cladding on the tragic tower block in north Kensington.

One of Croydon’s cladded towers, Messer Court in South Croydon

In the early 2000s, builders Wates Construction, on behalf of the council, carried out cladding work on tower blocks, two in the Waldrons in South Croydon, and two on Regina Road in South Norwood.

It is understood that blocks in New Addington may have also had similar insulation work carried out.

At the Waldrons and Regina Road blocks, Wates sub-contracted Harley Facades, who more recently have worked for Rydon Maintenance Ltd on the Grenfell Tower.

Croydon Council says that in the space of the past 10 days, fire safety checks have been conducted on 39 residential blocks in the borough. Of these blocks, 16 have cladding, but that the council says that its checks confirm that this cladding is made of different materials to that used at Grenfell.

Tate’s letter says: “The council has been working closely with the London Fire Brigade to ensure our accommodation meets all standards on fire safety. As a precaution after the tragic fire in Grenfell Tower, we immediately launched a full review of our fire safety processes. This included internal and external fire safety checks of all our housing blocks, with priority being given to our taller buildings (6 storeys and above).

“These inspections are well under way and all cladded blocks have already been inspected. We expect to complete the inspections of all high rise blocks within the next two weeks.”

Tate’s latest letter to residents also confirms the council’s commitment to fitting sprinklers to all 25 of its residential blocks, an important safety improvement, although this work will not begin until September at the earliest.

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3 Responses to Council writes to residents to state its blocks are safe

  1. Good news….but why be so patronising as to suggest that council tenants do not understand the word non-combustible?

  2. Alan Stanton says:

    Stephen Tate is making reassuring remarks. And I understand that he doesn’t want to start a panic. But he has said something along the line that: “blocks are safe” he can’t at the same time write that:
    ” inspections are on-going and could take a further two weeks to complete.”

    Isn’t this really no more than: “We’re urgently on the case. And so-far-so good?

    • Remember, Alan, this is from a council that has grandstanded over an announcement that it is to fit sprinklers in its tower blocks. The Croydon announcement came four years after the Lakanal coroner’s report recommended the fitting of sprinklers. And the council made *that* announcement in the knowledge that they would not be even passing the Town Hall motion to fit sprinklers for more than 10 weeks.

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