Government instructs landlords to repair fire safety breaches

Government instructs landlords to repair fire safety breaches

THE DEPARTMENT for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has told social landlords to ‘take action’ and seal up cracks that could cause collapse in the event of a gas explosion.

Inside Housing reported on the letter to all social landlords from the DCLGs Tamara Finkelstein, director general for the Building Safety Programme, which stated that gaps and cracks found in large panel system tower blocks have ‘compromised the fire safety’ of those high rises, and pointed out that these gaps are a ‘common characteristic’ of such buildings constructed between 1963 and 1978. 

The issue is said to have been caused by panels ‘expanding and contracting as temperatures fluctuate’, with this following the recent news that residents of four 13 storey blocks in the Ledbury Estate in Peckham have been ‘ordered out’ over the ‘risk of collapse’ in the event of a gas explosion. The local council had previously said it was ‘confident’ on the tower blocks’ safety, with inspections discovering ‘urgent fire safety risks in dozens of flats that had been present, in some cases, for up to 30 years’.

In addition, type four ‘thorough and intrusive’ fire risk assessments were carried out on the site by council fire safety officers, while the council hired building surveyors Arup to ‘assess the risks posed by large cracks in residents’ walls’, repairing these and testing the buildings’ structural integrity and ‘ability to withstand gas explosions’. The findings of the tests were said at the time to be set to ‘determine what strengthening works or refurbishments may need doing’.

The survey and fire risk assessment aimed to ‘determine the permanent fix to deal with the fire safety compartmentation issues’, with the evacuation recommended and confirming the assessment of architect Sam Webb. Ms Finkelstein’s letter noted that it is ‘important’ that the gaps are sealed, while any blocks with a gas supply ‘should be checked to see if they are strong enough to withstand a gas explosion’.

Inside Housing noted it had identified 17 social landlords ‘that own large panel system blocks’, with reports also coming from residents in two such blocks owned by Hammersmith and Fulham Council of cracks. The majority of the social landlords the site contacted said they ‘no longer have a gas supply in their blocks’ in the aftermath of the Ronan Point collapse, which killed four people’.