Advice needed now on tower block safety
The government should urgently advise councils about the safety of their housing stock in the event of explosions from gas powered cookers and heaters, it was warned this week.
Engineering organisation the Standing Committee on Structural Safety has expressed concern that Whitehall has yet to issue advice to local authorities about the structural safety of tower blocks. Guidance was due to be issued last year, after the publication of a report by the Building Research Establishment into the safety of
blocks. This report has not yet appeared.
John Carpenter, secretary of SCOSS, told Inside Housing that the government should take action now. ‘It would be the prudent thing to do,' he said. ‘The fact that the BRE report is still not available is a concern.'
SCOSS warned the Department for Communities and Local Government last year that tenants were taking explosive gas cylinders into their flats for heating and cooking. It claimed this could create a potentially lethal cocktail because no central checks had ever been made to make sure councils had tested the structural safety of their tower blocks. Recommendations for safeguarding large panel structure tower blocks against collapse were introduced after five people died in the Ronan Point disaster, caused by a gas explosion, in 1968.
‘This is serious because anything to do with gas is serious [especially] when you have gas being introduced into residential areas in a completely uncontrolled manner,' Mr Carpenter added.
The former Office of the Deputy Prime Minister had considered issuing advice to councils ahead of the publication of the BRE report (Inside Housing, 6 October 2005).