Building’s cladding ‘wrongly signed off’ as fire safe

Building’s cladding ‘wrongly signed off’ as fire safe

THE CLADDING on the City Exchange building was ‘wrongly signed off’ as meeting fire safety standards, according to planning documents.

Telegraph and Argus reported on the revelation that cladding on the City Exchange building in Bradford ‘was wrongly signed off as meeting fire standards’, with planning documents claiming that an application was lodged with Bradford Council to replace the building’s cladding – and within documents for the application, which has been approved, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) had said the cladding ‘does not meet the correct fire performance classification’.

A quote from the documents read: ‘The composite cedar cladding which was installed on City Exchange was signed off by our Approved Building Control Inspectors as having an appropriate fire performance classification. Once installed, the Fire Officer has informed us that it does not meet the correct fire performance classification and must be removed.

‘The Approved Building Control Inspectors which signed off the composite cedar cladding has admitted to the mistake in advising us it was suitable. Therefore the cladding is to be removed as a matter of urgency. We will be replacing it with a similar composite cladding product which has a similar colour, texture and format which meets the required performance classification.’

The building was one of a number written to by WYFRS in December last year, the fire and rescue service warning building owners and residents of 13 blocks across the county that flammable cladding on their buildings needs to be removed. Letters to residents and owners of high rise apartment blocks in Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield warned they ‘might be forced to leave’ if combustible cladding is not removed and owners asked about fire safety plans.

WYFRS stated that following the Grenfell Tower fire, it had identified buildings with ‘ongoing issues related’ to combustible cladding and insulation, and that ‘interim measures’ had been introduced to address fire safety concerns. However, after the Grenfell inquiry’s first phase report and the fire at the Cube student accommodation block in Bolton, it was ‘clear that the fire risk presented by flammable cladding can only be removed if the cladding itself is completely removed’.

WYFRS gave all building owners until 10 January to respond, and hoped it would ‘not be necessary’ to remove them, that a ‘swift resolution’ could be agreed, and assured residents that plans are in place in the ‘unlikely event of a fire’ at any of the blocks. Work was and remains ‘urgently’ required in the buildings, some of which were ‘not legal or safe when they were built’, and costs could reach as much as £50,000 per household.

A council spokesperson said that approval of the cladding was given by a private inspector and not a council officer, and the news outlet asked the building owners for ‘clarification on who gave the approval’, but ‘did not receive an answer’. WYFRS had requested a plan of action in its letter as well as a ‘firm commitment and timeline’ for replacing combustible cladding

A spokesperson for The Lettings Rooms, which manages the building, responded: ‘This is part of the process of the planned and agreed remediation work to replace one element of the cladding on the building following our dialogue with Building Control and [WYFRS], which is currently being undertaken. We can confirm that the original cladding has been removed and will be replaced over the next six to eight weeks.’