Berkshire hotels found to have ACM cladding
THE TWO hotels in the county have aluminium composite cladding (ACM), but Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) ‘won’t reveal’ their locations due to fears of ‘arson and terrorism’.
Bracknell News reported on the news that the two ‘mystery’ hotels in the county have the same combustible ACM cladding as Grenfell Tower, with RBFRS withholding the name, address and owners of the buildings ‘because of concerns they would be targets for arsonists and terrorists’. This came after the service was issued a freedom of information request relating to the hotels, and it only revealed that one has an ‘action plan’ for cladding removal, set for completion by December.
The other building meanwhile is ‘not planning to remove’ the cladding because it is ‘less than 18 metres in height’, though this may change given the government’s plans to reduce the combustible materials threshold from 18m to 11m for residential buildings as well as hotels. According to RBFRS, this hotel is between 11m and 18m and as such ‘could fall under the new ban’ anyway.
RBFRS information officer Emily Houghton stated in response to the information request that ‘there is a likelihood of the buildings being targeted by persons with malicious intent, for example arsonists or terrorists, should the requested information be disclosed’. After a complaint was made about RBFRS relating to this, the government’s regulator – the information commissioner – ruled that people staying in the hotels should ‘be told’ of the cladding.
However, they agreed that the locations ‘should not be published’, and added: ‘There is a strong public interest in individual occupants of the affected buildings being made aware, as to whether or not the buildings they are in have ACM cladding, and if there are any associated risks. However, as she understands it, residents have been made aware of the issues.”’
RBFRS noted that it was ‘unaware’ whether the two hotels are informing guests however, with a spokesman stating ‘we do not hold information on businesses policies regarding customer communications’. A further complication is that the hotels ‘cannot be asked themselves if they inform guests’ because RBFRS ‘will not say who owns the buildings, as this could make it possible to identify where the hotels are’.
An RBFRS spokesman commented: ‘RBFRS is keen to see a building safety system, which ensures that all risks associated with ACM and other cladding systems are effectively dealt with to ensure the safety of our communities. We are hopeful we will have enhanced powers under the new building safety programme. Following the introduction of any agreed changes [to the combustible materials threshold], we will work with the responsible person to support them to discharge their responsibilities.’