Oxford cladding replacement nearly completed

Oxford cladding replacement nearly completed

THE WORK to replace cladding on the city’s Windrush and Evenlode blocks is nearing completion.

Earlier this year, replacement works began on the two blocks after their cladding failed the government’s safety tests. This new cladding has been chosen as it is ‘in line with the requirements of the updated central government guidance’, with the council’s contractors Fortem to undertake the recladding work.

The work forms part of £21m repair projects for all council high rises, with external works begun at that time around the Windrush Tower to improve its grounds, car park, fencing, landscaping and front entrance. Oxford Mail has now reported on the work nearing completion, with a £1m project to remove and replace the cladding ‘still due to finish next month’.

Last year, there was originally confusion about whether the blocks should have been evacuated, with fire crews put on standby in case a fire started and firefighters ‘going door-to-door’ to reassure residents. The two Oxford towers ‘will be among the first to be completed’, with the council ‘seeking to reclaim costs’ from the government.

Former resident Craig Price, whose children still live in the Windrush block, said: ‘It has taken a long time but it is not the council’s fault. There is a lot more regulation now which is fantastic but it shouldn’t have taken a disaster like that to make people pay attention. It’s taken a huge loss of life to get these issues taken seriously and many of us were raising them long before it happened.

‘Of course seeing those images a year ago made me think of my own situation and my own children, it was an awful thing to see. I know now that if anything happened my kids would have a much better chance of being able to get out if necessary. People should be able to feel safe in their own homes.’

Elsewhere in Oxford, work has not yet begun to replace flammable cladding on the John Radcliffe Hospital’s trauma unit, with Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) Trust admitting that work to improve fire safety ‘is still in its early stages while costs remain largely unknown’. Last August, over 50 patients were evacuated from the hospital after a fire safety report cited ‘cladding, insufficient fire breaks between floors and vulnerable patients being unable to get out quick enough during a fire’.

The trust has three other buildings identified as ‘needing further examination’, including offices used by staff at the John Radcliffe and the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, as well as the Pet Crick Building on another hospital site in the city. In November, the OUH Trust was handed an enforcement notice by Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service in relation to the ‘catalogue of fire safety deficiencies’