Council gives safety reassurance after London tower block fire

Picture by Julian Brown 01/02/17

Crompton House

Cladding on blocks of flats, Scholes, Wigan
Picture by Julian Brown 01/02/17 Crompton House Cladding on blocks of flats, Scholes, Wigan

Council chiefs have written to residents in Wigan’s high-rise flats to reassure them after the tragic blaze at a tower block in London.

Seventeen people have so far been confirmed dead and many more injured following the massive fire at Grenfell Tower in the early hours of Wednesday.

Many issues have since been highlighted, including the safety of people living in high-rise flats and the cladding used on the outside of the building.

Karl Battersby, Wigan Council’s director for economy and environment, said: “We have written to all residents in the high-rise blocks in Wigan to reassure them about the precautions and measures we take as a council on fire safety.

“The safety of our residents is our highest priority and we take fire compliance extremely seriously.

“All of Wigan Council’s seven housing blocks have fire compartmentalisation which contains the spread of fire and all have installed fire screens and fire doors, both in the corridors and on flats.

“There is smoke detection within all of our towers with 10-year smoke alarms in every flat provided by the fire service and smoke detection in plant rooms, lift shafts and bin rooms and emergency lighting on corridors and in stairwells.

“Full fire assessments in conjunction with Greater Manchester Fire And Rescue Service are carried out regularly and regular fire safety checks are undertaken by estate caretakers.

“Six of our towers have cladding. The cladding used is fully fire retardant and is a different kind of cladding to the one used in the London tower.

“We are constantly aiming to improve fire safety in our blocks and will continue to work closely with the borough fire officer and will implement any further recommendations following the terrible tragedy in London.

“We have also reminded residents of actions they can take to avoid the risk of fire and keep themselves safe.”

Work on the exterior cladding has been going on for some time at blocks of flats in Scholes.

It is understood that the cladding being used is directly on the brickwork in Scholes, rather than having a gap which can create a chimney-effect.

Chris Brady, a tenants’ rep at Woodcock House in Scholes, said: “This terrible tragedy has highlighted what could be a potential problem and it has raised concerns among everybody who lives in a high-rise tower block.

“People will want questions answering. How did the fire escalate so quickly? Why did the safety precautions in place not work? Is this a one-off aberration or are we at risk?

“I have been told that fire inspectors have already visited here, whether for reassurance or to carry out work I don’t know.

“Comments have also been made about the cladding because we are in the middle of having our cladding replaced after the old material developed green mould and wasn’t fit for purpose.

“It is down to the council, housing and fire officials to do their risk assessments properly.

“They have obviously done something right because when we had quite a severe fire in 2014 it was contained within the flat although smoke did leak out.”