London council to take legal advice after tests reveal wrong panels fitted to tower blocks

Camden now removing cladding from its buildings in the Chalcots Estate

Jon Sharman
Thursday 22 June 2017 13:46
Residents' association chairman: Camden tower blocks have failed fire safety tests

A London council will urgently remove cladding from five blocks of flats after laboratory tests revealed they contain the same flammable material as that used on Grenfell Tower.

Aluminium panels with a polyethelene core were added to buildings in the Chalcots Estate, Camden Council said, that “were not to the standard” it wanted.

The council said it would take “urgent legal advice” after the panels it ordered for the blocks were not fitted as commissioned, and “will immediately begin preparing to remove these external cladding panels from the five tower blocks”.

Council leader Georgia Gould said fire safety at all its high-rise blocks was reviewed after the deadly Grenfell Tower blaze and that following the lab tests, safety patrols would be made 24 hours a day on the estate.

The main contractor on the renovation of five blocks in the estate was Rydon, the same company that worked on Grenfell Tower, according to the council's and its own website.

It carried out the refit between May 2006 and October 2009.

On its website, subcontractor Harley Facades said it carried out a £16m contract for the external finishing of the buildings, including 4mm aluminium composite material rainscreen cladding.

Ms Gould said: “The arrangement of the cladding and insulation used on Camden Council’s buildings significantly differs from that on Grenfell Tower.

“It includes fire-resistant rock wool insulation designed to prevent the spread of fire and fire resistant sealant between floors, designed to stop a high-intensity flat fire from spreading to neighbouring flats.

“This arrangement previously contained a fire at a flat in Taplow block in 2012. These are significant and proven arrangements to stop the spread of fire.

“The new results from the laboratory show that the outer cladding panels themselves are made up of aluminium panels with a polyethylene core.

“Therefore the panels that were fitted were not to the standard that we had commissioned. In light of this, we will be informing the contractor that we will be taking urgent legal advice.”

She added: “Whilst we are clear that our cladding design and insulation significantly differs to that at Grenfell Tower, the external cladding panels did not satisfy our independent laboratory testing or the high standards we set for contractors.

“Camden Council has decided it will immediately begin preparing to remove these external cladding panels from the five tower blocks on the Chalcots Estate.”

Rydon said last week its work on Grenfell Tower “met all required building regulations - as well as fire regulation and health & safety standards”.

The Independent has contacted both Rydon and Harley Facades for comment.

Harley's managing director, Ray Bailey, told ITV News: “These works were as described in the contractual specification and approved in the usual process for construction and building control by the London Borough of Camden."

“There is no evidence to suggest that this product and cladding system installed in Camden is unsafe”

Barnet Council said it is sending for laboratory tests samples of cladding from three tower blocks. It will also review whether sprinklers should be installed in its high-rise buildings, it said.

And a block of flats in Tottenham, Rivers Apartments, also features cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower, according to the BBC. The building's housing association told the broadcaster it had arranged new safety checks.

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