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Cladding stripped from Newtown tower blocks

Sanctuary Housing described exercise as 'minor building work'

Work is taking place to strip a fake brick facade on the ground floors of three Chester tower blocks in Newtown: Haygarth Heights, Thackeray Towers and Rowlands Heights. Pictured is Haygarth Heights.

Workers are stripping external cladding from the ground floors of three Chester tower blocks in connection with measures being taken across the country following the Grenfell Tower disaster.

So far at least 79 people are confirmed or presumed dead in the west London blaze tragedy.

Investigators will consider whether the fire spread so rapidly because of external cladding which has also been fitted to Sanctuary Housing’s nine high rise blocks in Blacon and Newtown .

Work is taking place to strip a fake brick facade on the ground floors of three Chester tower blocks in Newtown: Haygarth Heights, Thackeray Towers and Rowlands Heights. Pictured is Haygarth Heights.

Sanctuary has reassured Chester residents its external cladding is not the same type involved in Grenfell.

But now attention is focusing on the brick facade on the ground floors of its three Newtown tower blocks – Haygarth Heights, Thackeray Towers and Rowlands Heights – which incorporates what appears to be foam insulation.

Much of the facade at Haygarth Heights was taken down at the weekend and put into bags.

Work is taking place to strip a fake brick facade on the ground floors of three Chester tower blocks in Newtown: Haygarth Heights, Thackeray Towers and Rowlands Heights.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and Cheshire West and Chester Council are aware of the work taking place and have confirmed it is linked to Grenfell.

But Sanctuary is vague about what is taking place leading to confusion and anxiety among residents. The Chronicle has asked for clarification and is awaiting a response.

In a letter to tenants delivered on Friday, Julie Nundy, operations manager, Chester and North West, said: “This weekend we will be carrying out minor building work to the external ground floor of Thackeray Towers, Rowlands Heights and Haygarth Heights in Francis Street.

“The work is not structural and should not cause much disruption to residents. We anticipate it will be completed by Monday, June 26.”

Half this wall at the Haygarth Heights block has been stripped of the brick facade.

Newtown residents, many of whom are elderly, have been unnerved by Grenfell but also Sanctuary’s actions in first offering reassurances then removing cladding without a proper explanation. One Thackeray Towers resident said: “They’ve lied to us.”

A 80-year-old tenant of Haygarth Heights, who has lived there over five decades, admitted feeling worried after Grenfell. He commented: “I would think anybody who lives in a high rise would feel concerned.”

But he wasn’t losing sleep, adding: “For me any way, when you get to 80 you don’t give a monkey’s!”

Behind the brick facade is foam insulation.

To the best of his memory, there had not been a serious fire at the tower block in all the time he had lived there.

Sanctuary told The Chronicle previously that all tower blocks over six storeys would automatically be included in a national review by the government.

This meant the blocks at Blacon and Newtown must be checked out. However, inspections had revealed none featured aluminium composite material of the type used at Grenfell so no samples would be sent off for analysis.

Work is taking place to strip a brick facade on the ground floors of three Chester tower blocks in Newtown: Haygarth Heights, Thackeray Towers and Rowlands Heights.

In its latest statement, issued before the cladding was removed, a spokesman said: “We can reassure all residents that the cladding on our blocks in Chester is not the aluminium composite material used in Grenfell Tower.

“The fire service has been out to inspect both the cladding and the blocks themselves and have raised no concerns. We have shared the documentation relating to the technical specification of the cladding with the fire service and the cladding was signed off against the relevant regulations when the work to install it was completed.

Work is taking place to strip a fake brick facade on the ground floors of three Chester tower blocks in Newtown: Haygarth Heights, Thackeray Towers and Rowlands Heights.

“In addition, we have inspected our blocks and are reminding residents of the evacuation strategies that are in place.

“We are continuing to work with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to provide information on all of our blocks nationwide that are above six storeys.”

Sanctuary has organised two meetings for residents who are concerned about fire safety issues in Chester tower blocks.

Both will take place on Thursday, July 13. At 10am, Blacon residents are invited to a meeting at Nant Peris flats while at 4pm, Francis Street residents will be able to attend a gathering in the meeting room at Rowlands Heights.

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