Fire door replacement halted in Brighton
OVER 2,000 ‘failing’ fire doors similar to those used at Grenfell Tower are still in properties owned by Brighton and Hove Council.
Brighton and Hove Independent reported on the ‘halt’ on work to replace the fire doors in the city, with the doors in question Masterdor models that are a ‘composite of either wood or metal with a fire-proof core’. The doors had stopped being used by the council in 2010, and until August had been being replaced ‘as part of routine improvements’, but this has been stopped while the council waits for confirmation from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
This confirmation would be advice on ‘which replacements will meet tightened regulations’, with city council building control surveyor Grant Richie having spoken to residents and leaseholders during housing panel meetings ‘to assure people they are safe in their homes’. He confirmed that those needing emergency replacements will have solid wood instead of composite doors, with 2,254 of the Masterdor units fitted in council properties in the city.
Of this total, 1,585 are in high rise blocks and 669 in low rise blocks and houses, with all the doors having passed testing when fitted between 2008 and 2010. When the company Mears took over the council’s repair contract for doors in 2010, it started using different units that passed retesting, and since the Grenfell Tower fire extra fire risk assessments have been carried out at all high rise blocks where the Masterdor units were still fitted.
These tests found that the risk of doors failing within 30 minutes ‘was low’, and while the council aims to replace them, ‘until councils are given the all-clear to use composite doors at a national level, only emergency replacements are taking place’. Mr Richie added at a meeting that ‘the fire risk remains low and there are other precautions in place in line with what we need. East Sussex Fire and Rescue were with us on our inspections and happy with the current course of action’.
He was asked at another panel about the testing of the doors, and explained that a ‘small amount of smoke had passed through a door’ 15 minutes into a test, with this unit failing ‘more rigorous tests’ at around 25 to 26 minutes, Mr Richie describing this as a ‘technical failure’. Councillor Mary Mears stated at this meeting that ‘the council has done a really thorough job on this. This work is important to put tenants minds at rest’.
Martin Reid, the council’s head of housing strategy, property and investment, said in turn that ‘our highest priority is the safety of our residents and we are awaiting further instruction from the government on what further action to take’. A council spokesman added: ‘At the moment we do not know where we are with the doors as the government has not said what we can used as a replacement. We won’t know what it will cost until we know what can replace them and we are waiting for more clarification.’
Earlier in 2018, an independent panel stated that ‘no change’ was needed to building fire safety advice after a fire door from Grenfell Tower tests recently failed police tests. That panel aimed to ‘determine whether any further action was required as a result’, and in a written statement, then Housing Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed further investigations into the doors – manufactured by Manse Masterdor, which is now no longer trading – were not recommended.
More recently, new Housing Secretary James Brokenshire updated parliament, confirming experts ‘advise the risk to public safety remains low’, though soon after that an investigation found that London councils continue to ‘scramble to replace’ tens of thousands of faulty fire doors. These latest tests came after police tests on doors used at Grenfell Tower found that they could only resist flames for 15 minutes, and not the 30 minutes expected.
In August, five suppliers’ doors failed UK performance tests, and have been withdrawn from the market, while most recently the National Housing Federation warned that social landlords are ‘struggling to get hold of’ new fire doors, and are ‘uncertain’ about the risks posed by those that failed safety tests. Most recently, industry representatives have stated that ‘flawed’ government advice has delayed ‘vital work’ to replace unsafe fire doors nationwide.