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Call for reclad Chester tower blocks to be included in emergency review

Blacon pensioner expresses fears over cladding at his high rise building

Communities secretary Sajid Javid has launched a nationwide emergency review of high rise blocks clad in similar material to Grenfell Tower over fears it helped spread the devastating blaze.

The Chronicle has asked Cheshire West and Chester Council and Sanctuary Housing whether any reclad blocks in this area will be affected with a response awaited.

So far 30 people are confirmed dead in the London inferno with speculation the death toll could exceed 60.

Grenfell Tower in West London which was destroyed by a severe fire overnight(Image: Daily Mirror)

Robert Hughes, 85, is resident of the reclad Nant Peris tower block in Blacon where a fire broke out on the ninth floor in 2013 leaving one male injured but the blaze didn’t spread. However, he would welcome a review.

He told The Chronicle: “According to what I hear about this cladding, it’s not fire resistant with the result is it can go through the cladding which is installed in these high rise flats.

“It’s a really shocking thing when you think about it.“

He assumed the fear such a blaze could happen at other tower blocks was ‘on everybody’s mind’, especially those living on the higher floors.

The scene of the blaze at the Nant Peris flats, Blacon, in 2013.

Investigators will consider whether the Grenfell Tower fire spread so rapidly because of the external cladding which has also been fitted to Sanctuary’s nine high rise blocks in Blacon and Newtown. Cladding is installed to improve the appearance and insulation properties of the aging blocks.

Three high rise buildings at Joseph Groome Towers in Ellesmere Port, run by Plus Dane, are not clad.

The government review will identify which blocks across the country have been reclad in material similar to that used at Grenfell Tower.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid. Photo: Leon Neal/PA Wire

Sajid Javid MP told BBC Breakfast: “We have to be led by the experts in this. This will be done in a matter of days. Those people need to be given reassurance within days. There are about 4,000 high-rise buildings in the country, but not all of them have been recladded.

“Let’s not make the assumption it is all about cladding. As soon as we have more information, which we expect later today, or certainly over the weekend, then that is what should be used to do these emergency inspections.

"We will do whatever it takes to make those buildings safe or make those people safe.”

Current advice in the event of a fire within a tower block is that tenants should ‘stay put’ and seal themselves in unless advised to leave by the authorities.

Flats, with concrete walls and floors, are designed to offer fire protection for a long enough period to allow fire crews to either extinguish the blaze or carry out a safe rescue (compartmentalisation). However, this did not work at Grenfell Tower.

The Glyn Garth and Nant Peris tower blocks in Blacon which were reclad to improve their appearance and insulation properties along with the neighbouring Plas Dinas high rise.

A joint statement from CWAC, its housing management company Plus Dane and housing association Sanctuary issued yesterday (Thursday) reiterates the ‘Stay put’ policy.

And it was confirmed annual fire risk assessments are in place at the Chester tower blocks. The statement also said the ‘compartmentalisation’ fire protection plan was completed three years ago and signed off by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Christa Ripley, head of housing, Sanctuary Housing said: “We have visited the blocks and hand delivered letters to reassure residents who are reminded of the need to keep communal areas clear and fire doors closed.

“We began a pilot of a sprinkler system at Rowland Heights in Newtown in 2015. That pilot has now completed and I am pleased to say that plans are underway to roll out sprinklers to our remaining high rise blocks in Chester and beyond. We will contact our residents before any work starts.”

Cllr Angela Claydon, cabinet member for housing

Cllr Angela Claydon , cabinet member for housing, said: “After the shocking fire, my thoughts are with the families whose lives have been so badly affected.

“I know some of our residents will be feeling understandably worried and for this reason our housing managers Plus Dane are visiting their three blocks with the local Ellesmere Port fire crew. The three Ellesmere Port blocks have sprinkler systems fitted.

“Plus Dane will also be meeting residents in their homes to reassure them and remind them what the stay put policy means and also to let people know that the fire service has visited the property to do a full inspection.”

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