Cladding warning issued over 13 West Yorkshire blocks

Cladding warning issued over 13 West Yorkshire blocks

WEST YORKSHIRE Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) has warned building owners and residents of 13 blocks across the county that flammable cladding on their buildings needs to be removed.

BBC News, Examiner Live and Telegraph and Argus all reported on the letters from WYFRS to residents and owners of 13 West Yorkshire high rise apartment blocks – in Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield - with residents 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 last month, it was ‘clear that the fire risk presented by flammable cladding can only be removed if the cladding itself is completely removed’.

The affected buildings in Leeds include the Skyline; Quay One; 20:20 House; McClure House; McClintock House; Crozier House; One Brewery Wharf; Aruba; Montague; and the St Georges building. The City Exchange and Landmark house in Bradford, and the Castings in Huddersfield, were also affected, and WYFRS has given all building owners until 10 January to respond, telling residents ‘no action will take place over the Christmas period’.

It hoped it would ‘not be necessary’ to remove them and 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. Examiner Live stated that the Castings student accommodation consists of four blocks ‘of varying heights’, with another student block – Kingfisher Court – having been evacuated and ‘condemned’ by WYFRS in August due to fire safety breaches.

BBC News noted that Welbeck Land, which developed the Skyline in Leeds, said the building was clad in aluminium composite material (ACM), a spokesperson adding that ‘in light of these findings’ leasehold owner Canisp Ltd ‘undertook to meet the costs of the remedial works although there was no legal obligation to do so’, with a contractor appointed and starting in early 2020.

Telegraph and Argus added that residents of council owned Landmark House in Bradford – also clad in ACM - were concerned works had still not started, while City Exchange – another affected block – ‘is not yet thought’ to have residents.

A Bradford Council spokesperson responded: ‘We are aware that [WYFRS] have written to those responsible for high rise residential buildings with cladding to require information about their plans to remove it. We understand that WYFRS has also written to residents to make them aware of the request. The safety of residents continues to be the priority and interim measures remain in place at Landmark House to ensure this continues. We will continue to work closely with [WYFRS].

‘In January 2019 the Council served a formal enforcement notice on the Head Leaseholders requiring works to Landmark House. This notice is currently the subject of an appeal which is to be heard by the First Tier Tribunal on a date to be fixed. We are aware that the Head Leaseholders for Landmark House have made an application for government funding to replace the cladding and that their application is being assessed.’

WYFRS’ statement on the announcement read: ‘We are calling for urgent action to be taken to remove flammable cladding which remains on some buildings across our region. Enhanced fire safety (interim measures) were put in place to allow residents to continue living in such buildings following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017. However, these measures were designed to be short-term until works could be completed to remove the flammable cladding.

‘We are now more than two years down the line and we feel these “interim measures” cannot go on indefinitely. There has been a lack of action from some of those legally responsible for these buildings to resolve this issue, and following the first phase of the Grenfell report, we feel steps need to be taken, by the responsible parties, to remove this cladding to ensure the safety of residents.

‘We have written requesting a plan of action from them and a firm commitment and timeline stating when the flammable cladding will be removed. We sympathise with those people living in any buildings affected and we have also written to them to offer reassurance and safety advice in order that they can be vigilant in preventing the unlikely break-out of fire in their homes. However, we must act now as the current situation cannot continue.’

‘We expect a response from the Responsible Persons for buildings in the New Year and will be making contact once again with residents to update them on the way forward. We recognise that a number of buildings have already been remediated and others have firm plans to do so. We seek to ensure that every building affected is rectified to ensure the safety of residents and our firefighters.’

Dave Walton, WYFRS’ deputy chief fire officer, wrote in the letters: ‘The risk posed to life at this and other recent incidents leads us to believe that it is now time to ask your building owner about their plans to remove the cladding on your building. Whilst we do not wish to cause any alarm, we must be clear in advance that prohibition of the entire building, or parts of it, will be one of our considerations if we are not satisfied with the response provided to us by those responsible for your building.’