Grenfell Tower: Hundreds of buildings still have 'unsafe' cladding

By Daniel Wainwright
BBC News

Images of people who lost their lives in the Grenfell FireImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Seventy two people died in the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017

More than 200 high-rise buildings in England with cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower are yet to have work to remove it.

Out of 328 buildings that still have aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding, 221 are awaiting work to start.

Events on Friday will mark the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 people died.

The government will pay £200m to remove ACM from privately owned blocks.

There have been calls for the funding to be extended to other forms of cladding and fire safety measures.

Highly combustible

The government ordered a review into cladding on high-rise blocks following the tragedy, when a blaze broke out in the 24-storey block of flats in North Kensington, west London.

It took minutes for the fire to race up the exterior of the building, and spread to all four sides.

A public inquiry into the disaster heard evidence to support the theory that the highly combustible material in the cladding was the primary cause of the fire's spread.

As of the end of May, 105 other high-rise buildings that had previously failed safety tests have had work to remove the cladding completed.

The data only covers ACM cladding and does not include buildings with other fire safety issues.

Ahead of the second anniversary of the fire, campaigners projected messages on to tower blocks in Salford, Newcastle and London which they said were unsafe.

Image source, Grenfell united
Image caption,
The message on this Salford block says it has dangerous cladding

The projection on to the NV building in Salford, which has 246 flats, said it was "still covered in dangerous cladding" that was not covered by the government's cladding removal fund.

Remembering those lost at Grenfell Tower

Media caption,
The friendships brought together through Grenfell

Memorial services and vigils will be held throughout Friday to mark the second anniversary of the fire.

Survivors and families will be joined by communities secretary James Brokenshire and fire minister Nick Hurd for a remembrance service in St Helen's Church, close to Grenfell Tower.

Britain's Got Talent semi-finalist and Grenfell survivor Leanne Mya will sing during the service and white doves will be released afterwards.

Other multi-faith services will also take place around the area, along with a private wreath-laying, a remembrance event in which 72 bells will be rung - one for each victim - and a silent walk organised by survivors' group Grenfell United.

Karim Mussilhy, whose uncle died in the fire, said: "Our plan is to come together with the rest of the community and be with each other, share some tears with each other, smiles with each other, and put our arms around each other and remember our loved ones and pay our respects.

"We also want to be a presence to everyone else, show them that we are still here and we are still standing strong together, dignified, respectful, we aren't going to go away, we're not going to fade away and we're not going to let others forget our loved ones and for us to be swept under the carpet."

There are high-rise buildings with ACM cladding in 62 local authority areas across England.

Greenwich, Tower Hamlets and Salford were all found to have at least 20 buildings each with the cladding.

Brent, Newham, Wandsworth, Westminster and Manchester have between 11 and 20 each, while Camden, Haringey, Islington, Lambeth, Leeds and Liverpool have between six and 10 each.

Ministers have promised a £200m fund to help remove the material from private residential tower blocks.

However, leaseholders said the fund did not go far enough and they would still be left facing bills of thousands of pounds for other fire safety measures.

Image caption,
Alex Di Giuseppe is living in a building with ACM cladding

Alex Di Giuseppe, who lives at City Gate, a block with ACM cladding in Manchester, said leaseholders were being expected to pay between £4,000 and £7,000, depending on the size of the flat.

They were now waiting to find out how much the government funding might reduce the bill by.

"The government fund covers the ACM cladding, which helps, but doesn't cover any other type of cladding or fire safety work," said the 29-year-old, who works in marketing.

"There's a lot of stress involved living in a building that's technically unsafe.

"There are costs we can't afford and we can't sell our flats. We are mortgage prisoners."

A spokeswoman for the building's management agent Rendall and Rittner said mandatory internal work relating to fire safety was complete. She added the company was applying for government funding "to reduce costs to leaseholders as far as is possible".

Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell told the House of Commons: "Residents are trapped in dangerous properties.

"The fund does not cover many buildings in my constituency that have other cladding - not ACM cladding - or that have no firebreaks or other safety concerns."

Grenfell United wants a social housing regulator created to ensure tenants are listened to when they raise concerns and for dangerous materials including cladding to be banned and removed from homes.

Natasha Elcock, who chairs the organisation and is a survivor from the tower, said: "It's been two years since Grenfell and people are still going to bed at night worried that a fire like Grenfell could happen to them."

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: "The government has banned combustible materials in the external walls of new high-rise homes and guidance requires that sprinklers must be installed in new buildings above 30 metres.

"Building owners are ultimately responsible for the safety of the building and it is for them to decide whether to retro-fit sprinklers."

Media caption,
See what happens when you expose cladding core to extreme heat

Around the BBC

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.