Fire door replacement plan ‘yet to materialise’
DESPITE THE government having promised to devise a plan to replace the fire risk doors nationwide, a plan has ‘yet to materialise’, while the government has told the industry it ‘must take responsibility’.
In early 2018, an independent panel stated that ‘no change’ was needed to building fire safety advice after a fire door from Grenfell Tower failed police tests. That panel aimed to ‘determine whether any further action was required as a result’, and then Housing Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed further investigations into the doors – manufactured by Manse Masterdor, now no longer trading – were not recommended.
Later, new Housing Secretary James Brokenshire confirmed experts ‘advise the risk to public safety remains low’, though an investigation found that London councils continue to ‘scramble to replace’ tens of thousands of doors. Last August, five suppliers’ doors failed tests and were withdrawn from sale, while the National Housing Federation warned social landlords are ‘struggling to get hold of’ new doors, and are ‘uncertain’ about risks posed by those that failed tests.
In September confusion over government advice delayed ‘vital work’ to replace unsafe doors nationwide. While the government lifted the moratorium on composite doors after three months of discussion last December, it was reported last month that ‘at least’ 25,000 such doors are still installed in public housing, with the ‘vast majority’ of failed doors in use matching the units at Grenfell Tower.
This figure is ‘likely to be significantly higher’ as many councils ‘do not hold records’ on doors, while others have ‘handed management’ of their property portfolios to another company, ‘and refused to answer’. Some haven’t been replaced due to uncertainty over composite units, while other door replacement schemes had been postponed due to the moratorium.
Huffington Post has now reported that an action plan is ‘yet to emerge’, while industry representatives are working ‘as quickly as possible’. Mr Brokenshire responded that the government was ‘currently working with the Association of Composite Fire Door Manufacturers [ACDM] on a plan to ensure that doors are replaced where this is required’.
The news outlet pointed out that it ‘remains unclear how long it will be before replacement work begins’. This is said to be down to the industry ‘still trying to establish the full scale of the faults’ as part of a consultation, with councils and housing associations ‘expected to carry out’ fire risk assessments before suppliers replace doors.
Another issue is ‘who pays’, with councils ‘frustrated’ that they had been ‘sold faulty doors in the first place’ before having to ‘foot a hefty bill’ for replacements, and the industry is concerned some businesses may collapse. Andrew Fowlds, chair of the ACDM, stated: ‘From the outside looking in it may look like some organisations are dragging their heels, but on the inside everyone is working very hard to try to get this done as quickly as possible. Everyone in the industry wants to make sure the public is safe. The industry will make sure that’s the case.’
He added that delays stem from testing facilities being ‘overwhelmed’ since Grenfell, while John Healey, shadow secretary of state for housing, commented: ‘Ministers have been off the pace at every stage since the Grenfell Tower fire over 19 months ago. It beggars belief that the government still say they are “working on a plan” to replace faulty fire doors despite this problem coming to light months ago. There is no way Tory ministers would accept this sort of delay in making their own homes safe. It’s not acceptable for other people’s homes either.’
A spokesperson for the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government responded: ‘Nothing is more important than making sure people are safe in their homes. As soon as the Metropolitan Police informed us about an issue with a fire door from Grenfell Tower we took swift and decisive action to investigate the fire doors industry by immediately notifying National Trading Standards and preventing the production and sale of any GRP composite fire doors with immediate effect and stopping any new doors entering the market.
‘Whilst advice from our Expert Panel is that the risk to public safety remains low, our investigation into the fire door market continues and we are doing everything we can to ensure these products meet the highest possible safety standards, including gaining an industry commitment to remove all doors sold until it could be proved that it met the required 30-minute standard on both sides of the door.
‘We have been clear that the door industry must take responsibility for replacing their defective fire doors and we are urgently working with them to give effect to their commitment as soon as possible.’