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Associations re-check cladding following Grenfell disaster

Housing associations across Britain are re-checking cladding on high-rise buildings and reviewing fire risk assessments, as the sector responds to last week’s tragedy in west London.

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A snap Inside Housing survey of housing association responses revealed dozens of organisations are taking some additional precautions to ensure their properties are safe.

At least 12 said they were actively checking the cladding added to high-rise buildings in retrofit programmes to ensure it does not pose a risk.

Others were reviewing fire risk assessments, while many were contacting residents with reassurance or fire safety advice.

It comes as the government called for an emergency audit of 4,000 old tower blocks across the country to establish which, if any, have the same risks as Grenfell Tower in Kensington.

A blaze tore through the 24-storey high rise, with 58 people either confirmed dead, missing or presumed dead at the time of writing.

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A spokesperson for large housing association L&Q, which owns 90,000 homes across London and the South East, said on Friday: “In light of the tragic event at Grenfell Tower, we will visit each of our 32 tower blocks over the next seven days to check the building’s safety and review its fire risk assessment.

“While the circumstances behind the fire are still unclear, we are taking the additional precaution of surveying the cladding on our high-rise blocks. We don’t believe our blocks feature the materials or construction methods present at Grenfell, but we want to be sure we have reviewed all potential risks.”

A spokesperson for 44,000-home Optivo said: “As a result of the Grenfell fire, we are reviewing the risk assessments in all high-rise buildings over 10 floors, as well as high-risk blocks – such as care homes, older people’s schemes, student accommodation, key worker accommodation and hostels. We are also reviewing all buildings, both high and low rise, which have had insulated cladding fitted.”

John Craggs, chief executive of Sunderland-based Gentoo, added: “Despite the comprehensive precautions we already have in place in our high-rise buildings and with our residents, I have instructed our team to fully review our approach to fire risk management.”

Walsall Housing Group, one of the largest organisations in the Midlands, said: “We can confirm that following the fire at Grenfell Tower in London we arranged for our fire risk assessment competent surveyors to undertake visits at all of our high-rise properties. We have been able to reassure our customers by confirming that... we use a fire-resistant product in all of our external wall insulation and that all fire alarms are working correctly.”

The organisation said it does not have a ‘stay put’ policy in place for its tower blocks and instead has clear signage for escape routes in the event of fire.

Pobl, one of the largest housing associations in Wales, said it was reconsidering whether to retrofit sprinklers in its homes following the fire. Regulations in Wales make sprinklers mandatory in new build properties, but there is not currently an obligation to retrofit.

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive, which manages almost 90,000 social homes in Northern Ireland, is also reviewing safety at all 32 of its tower blocks.

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