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‘Grenfell will never be repeated’ - £2m to be spent on fire safety in Norwich tower blocks

PUBLISHED: 19:40 17 January 2018 | UPDATED: 19:51 17 January 2018

The towers in Heartsease. Pic: Colin Finch.

The towers in Heartsease. Pic: Colin Finch.

Archant © 2007

High rise flats are to benefit from £2m in safety improvements to ensure the “events of Grenfell will never be repeated” in Norwich.

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London, in which more than 70 people died, a survey of Norwich’s eight tower blocks was commissioned and was presented to Norwich City Council’s (NCC) cabinet this evening.

That survey, carried out by NPS Group with the support of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, has come up with a string of recommendations to improve safety in the towers, where there are more than 450 flats.

Overall it was found the tower blocks were well maintained with “no serious concerns”.

But, for extra safety, council bosses intend to speed up improvement work which had been planned, or has already been partially completed.

That will include replacing 718 front doors and store doors at a cost of nearly £670,000, with work due to start later this month. The council says that will address almost half the issues identified.

Gail Harris, deputy leader of NCC, said a “significant amount of resources” had been put into the report.

She added while the council had come in for criticism over its fire safety policy in recent years, they would not shift.

“The council has on occasion been criticised for the stance it takes on communal areas,” she said. “As far as our tower blocks are concerned there should be nothing in the communal areas. No gnomes, no plant pots and no rubbish. It is a matter of safety for both the residents and the fire service.”

Garry Collins, head of fire prevention and protection at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, praised the council for a “huge piece of work, done diligently”.

“This could have been a light touch but it was such level of detail no stone has been left unturned,” he said.

“The events of Grenfell will never be repeated. The fundamental outcome is you are now no more at risk in one of our tower blocks than in a bungalow.”

Council leader Alan Waters said the authority will now seek to recoup some of its costs from central government.

“In the early days following this fire they were up for supporting councils with any remedial works they had to take,” he said. “I think we should hold them to that initial promise. We may have to shame them into responsibility.”

What work will be done?

• Work will start this month to replace 718 front doors and store doors in every tower block at a cost of £668,000. The new front doors will have fire proof letterboxes.

• £1m is to be spent replacing wooden framed panels in bathrooms with metal framed fixed panels and putting special sealant around ventilation ducts and waste pipes. That will be done over the next 12 months.

• Other work will see improvements to dividing doors in flats, battery-powered smoke alarms replaced with hardwired ones and the removal of polystyrene ceiling tiles.

• The goal is that the changes will improve what is known as “fire compartmentalisation”, whereby a fire in an individual flat can be contained for at least 30 minutes.

• People will not have to move out of their flats while the work is carried out.

• There will also be an education and information programme around fire safety.

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