Flammable cladding will not be banned from existing buildings, Tory Housing Secretary James Brokenshire announced at the Conservative Party conference this week. This is despite the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), survivors from the Grenfell Tower fire and the Royal Institute of British Architects all demanding that it is immediately banned and stripped.
Brokenshire announced that combustible cladding is only to be banned from newly built schools, hospitals, care homes, student accommodation and residential buildings in England and only if the building is above 18m (60ft) tall.
The ban will not be applied retrospectively to materials already fitted.
In his keynote address to the Conservative Conference, Brokenshire was expected to say:
“It’s been over a year since the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire.
“This unimaginable horror has rightly shocked us all and underlined the need to do all that we can to see that such a disaster cannot happen again.
“My work with Grenfell United and the wider community has been hugely helpful in keeping this issue right at the top of the Government’s agenda.
“And that is why today I can confirm that I will change the building regulations to ban the use of combustible cladding for all high-rise residential buildings, hospitals, care homes and student accommodation and bring about a change in culture on building safety.”
However, the ban he announced to conference fell short of what he had promised and will cover only combustible materials, including cladding, on new buildings, but will not be applied retrospectively to buildings where such materials have already been fitted.
After the horror of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, where flammable cladding rapidly spread the fire, buildings were tested around the country. It was discovered that there were 468 high-rise buildings in England which tests subsequently identified as being covered in flammable cladding similar to that which had caused the Grenfell inferno.
Firefighters union the FBU has called for a complete ban on combustible cladding and the immediate removal of flammable cladding from all buildings in the UK.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said :
“This is not the outright ban on combustible cladding that firefighters have been calling for. The Westminster government continues to allow cladding of limited combustibility for any building work in the future. The FBU called for a universal ban on these flammable materials.
“These measures do not deal with the existing cladding on nearly 500 buildings across England where people live and work every day. The government’s proposals only apply to buildings over 18 metres high, plus hospitals, care homes and student accommodation – when they should apply to all buildings, whatever their height or use.”
Earlier this year, the Royal Institute of British Architects called for a total ban on flammable cladding, as well as a requirement for sprinklers to be fitted, and a second means of escape for high-rise residential buildings. Of 295 blocks of private flats across England with combustible cladding, including 28 high-rise hotels, only two have been been made safe by removing these deadly cladding systems.
Of 159 social housing blocks that have cladding that failed fire tests in the wake of the Grenfell disaster, only 15% have had the cladding removed. The government has refused to say which buildings are clad in flammable material. They claim this information could ‘endanger the mental and physical health of people living in the buildings and could compromise their safety.’
Meanwhile, in a number of councils the truth has already emerged. For instance, in the London borough of Hackney in east London, three blocks at Lincoln Court, in Bethune Road, Stamford Hill and at Hugh Gaitskell House in Stoke Newington unsafe flammable cladding is present.
Wardens are also patrolling seven-storey Burbage House in Poole Road, Hoxton, from 8pm to 8am to ‘keep an eye on the building’ because of its aluminium composite material with unmodified polyethylene filler which tests have shown do not adequately resist fire.
Alarmingly plans to re-clad Landmark Heights, in Daubeney Road Lower Clapton ‘are to be shelved’. Landmark Heights is privately owned but was originally built by the council.
The Conseratives are responsible for killing more in the Grenfell Tower fire than all the terrorist deaths in the UK since the 90’s. So if they can fund wars on terror (claiming it’s for our safety), surely they can afford sprinklers and the replacement of these deadly flammable cladding systems. Or do they not care at all about the low waged, and are happy to let them burn? Or does the war on error not matter, assuming it was a catalogue of errors that caused the Grenfell fire?
Perhaps paying attention to something other than Brexit would help. But they have no shame, and there’s no one calling them out. They gift wrapped almost 500 buildings in flammable cladding and charged the residents. Now, they keep those residents in death traps and have offloaded the ownership of many of these buildings onto private companies, so that when they burn the government can’t be sued. That’s the conservative way. Protect and serve… themselves, and no others.
Reposted (with some minor edits) by kind permission of Dear Kitty Blog;