Cladding on at least five Norwich tower blocks fail fire safety tests
PUBLISHED: 17:52 26 June 2017 | UPDATED: 07:50 27 June 2017
Dozens of people are living in five Norwich tower blocks which have failed fire safety tests.
But fire experts are confident that measures put in place will mean none of the 174 apartments will have to be evacuated.
Tests were carried out on the aluminium cladding on Brennan Bank on Geoffrey Watling Way after the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
The cladding on Grenfell Tower, which is aluminium composite material (ACM), has been highlighted as one of the possible reasons for the building catching fire so quickly.
Cladding on the five Norwich blocks is also aluminium composite material called Larson PE, but it is a different product to that on Grenfell, which was called Reynobond PE.
Developer Taylor Wimpey has written to residents at Robinson Bank, Nethercott Bank, Gavin Bank, Lochhead Bank and Brennan Bank after the cladding failed the tests.
In the letter, Hayden Dolby from Taylor Wimpey said: “Although the material complies with building regulations... the cladding has not met the initial flammability tests.”
The polyethylene insulation used in the cladding between the aluminium sheets is the part which failed the tests.
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service then inspected the site and found it was safe for residents to remain in their homes, Mr Dolby said.
But as a precaution residents have been told not to park underneath the flats, the bin stores have been moved further away from the buildings, and people should not use barbecues, smoke, or light candles on their balconies.
One balcony at Brennan Bank, which is owned by Broadland Housing, was recently damaged by someone having a barbecue.
The fire safety plan has also been updated, with residents now being told to evacuate the building immediately rather than stay put if there is a fire.
James Belcher, head of planning at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We are confident in the additional measures that will be put in place to help keep residents safe.
“As an additional precaution, we have also made sure that in the event of a fire at these buildings, we would be able to respond with extra fire engines.”
Neil Stevens, who lives in Robinson Bank, said: “I suppose there is some concern, but at the moment I just feel there is a little bit of overreaction.
“I think perhaps there is a little bit of panic in the air at the moment and people need to take a cool, calm look at things.
“The fire regulations that we have in our building are robust enough. It is not a high rise building so at the moment we feel quite safe.”
The four of the five blocks are managed by Norwich Residential Management (NRM).
Guy Hudson, managing director of NRM, said: “We are trying to mitigate the risks in the event of a fire.”
And he stressed the cladding was not the same product as that on Grenfell Tower.
A spokesman for Taylor Wimpey said: “We have written to all residents on the development to advise them of the situation and to provide reassurance on the fire safety procedures on site. Based on the above advice, we have also advised residents of some additional interim procedures that have been put in place as a precautionary measure.”
A sample of cladding on two other blocks of flats on Geoffrey Watling Way, called Ashman Bank and Allison Bank, is also being tested as a precaution.
They are a different design to the other five blocks and the cladding is not aluminium composite material.
Those blocks are managed by a company called RMG.
A spokesman for the company said: “The cladding on the building does not use the same materials as those present in the cladding at Grenfell Tower. The local fire service has advised that the site does not warrant a further review because it meets all fire safety procedures; an external means of escape; an evacuate policy; and a fire alarm system.”
On Monday afternoon Norwich South MP Clive Lewis visited Brennan Bank to find out what is being done after the failed tests.
Meanwhile, extra fire safety inspections are being carried out at tower blocks across Norwich, particularly those with cladding.
No Norwich City Council blocks have cladding.
Sales of the panels attached to Grenfell Tower have been halted for high-rise buildings by its manufacturer.
Arconic stopped global sales of its Reynobond PE cladding for tall buildings, citing concerns about the “inconsistency of building codes across the world”.
•Top Tips for people living in high-rise accommodation
If you hear a fire alarm, do not ignore it.
Understand your own building procedures. These should be clearly signposted around the building. Know your escape plan and quickest way out and alternative exit routes. Make sure everyone know about them.
Keep exits and lobbies clear of obstructions, rubbish and combustible items.
If you cannot leave your flat because the stairs and hallways are filled with smoke, ring 999 and stay inside the safest room. Keep the door closed and use towels or bedding at the bottom of the door to block the smoke.
If you can safely leave, get out, stay out and sound the alarm.
Use the stairs, not the lift.
In the event of a fire, never assume that someone else has called 999. Make sure your neighbours know about the fire. Bang on their doors on your way out.
Never tamper with any fire safety equipment including internal fire mains (dry riser) on landings. These provide water to firefighters when there is an emergency. It could cost lives if they’re not working properly when there’s a fire.
If you see any equipment or fire doors vandalised or damaged then report it immediately to the manager of the building.
If you have any concerns about the safety of your building, report it to your landlord immediately.