Cladding to be removed from Oxford tower block

Hockmore Tower
Image caption Eight-floor Hockmore Tower features HPL, which has failed fire safety tests

Cladding will be removed from a residential tower block in Oxford after it failed a fire safety test.

The city council says it will cost £1m to replace the high-pressure laminate (HPL) rain screen, which covers nearly half of Hockmore Tower.

The safety of retro-fitted cladding came into question after 72 people died in the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.

The council said the eight-floor block was safe to live in due to the sprinkler system and other measures.

In June, Inside Housing said HPL burned 115 times hotter than non-combustible products.

It said HPL had been blamed for the external spread of the Lakanal House fire, which killed six people in Camberwell in 2009.

On 1 July the government said HPL rain screens needed to be removed from tower blocks if it is combined with combustible insulation.

The change comes after an HPL screen failed a fire safety test carried out by a private company.

Councillor Mike Rowley said the council was going "above and beyond legal requirements", adding: "We are acting quickly to remove and replace the cladding on Hockmore Tower."

The council added it would be looking to recoup the cost of replacing the cladding from the government, and had received £1.2m for replacing aluminium composite (ACM) rain screens used on the Evenlode and Windrush tower blocks in the city.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dozens of people were killed in the Grenfell Tower fire, which spread due to flammable cladding

ACM cladding was used on Grenfell Tower, and contributed to the rapid spread of the fire in the 24-storey building.

The council and Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said a "comprehensive range of fire safety measures" meant Hockmore Tower, which contains 58 flats, was safe to live in while the cladding was still in place.

The insulation used on the tower is non-combustible.

Unlike Grenfell Tower and Lakanal House, it has sprinkler systems in all its flats, fire breaks within the cladding system and an evacuation policy for the building down two flights of stairs.

In Grenfell and Lakanal there was a "stay put" policy in place, which meant some stayed in their properties as the blaze progressed.

A small amount of HPL rain screens will be removed from the Evenlode and Windrush tower blocks in Blackbird Leys.

Some work will take place in the Foresters and Plowman towers, but its cladding does not require removal.

Chief fire officer Simon Furlong said: "Hockmore Tower - with its fire alarms, upgraded fire doors, evacuation policy and, most especially, its sprinklers - far exceeds the standards required to determine that the building is safe."

The work on all five towers is expected to cost £1.5m.

More on this story