Exclusive by Connor Stringer
The Leader of BCP Council has encouraged residents living in tower blocks with cladding similar to that installed at Grenfell Tower to make themselves aware of safety procedures.
Cllr Vikki Slade was commenting following a BUzz investigation into the cladding of THREE high-rise buildings in Poole and Bournemouth.
An exclusive investigation by BUzz revealed last week that student accommodation block Lansdowne Point had a catalogue of safety issues, including a similar type of Grenfell cladding.
Now BUzz has been looking into the background of a further TWO high rise buildings which have flammable ACM cladding similar to the type installed at Grenfell – with one building’s exterior being 30% covered by the material.
The two buildings in question are Orchard Plaza and Harbour Sail in Poole.
The information was provided by Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue as part of the BUzz investigation. Dorset Fire and Rescue inspected all residential high rise buildings of five floors and above across the Service area, both in Dorset and Wiltshire, in 2017/18.
Changes in legislation after Grenfell placed a ban on the use of combustible materials anywhere in the external walls of high-rise buildings over 18 metres above ground level.
Dorset Fire and Rescue Area Manager Seth Why said the service is working closely with the BCP council to ensure residents’ safety.
He said: “DWFRS inspected all residential high rise buildings of five floors and above across the Service area, both in Dorset and Wiltshire, in 2017/18. There are three buildings in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole with ACM cladding similar to the type installed at Grenfell – where 79 people died.
“In partnership with the local authority, we have ensured that residents living in these buildings have been kept fully informed of building inspections, we have spoken with many residents to provide reassurance and offer Safe & Well Visits for anyone with concerns about fire safety.
“We continue to work with the local authority and building owners to ensure that adequate fire safety arrangements are in place.”
Cllr Slade said: “I don’t think is any immediate danger as I understand it.
“There are guidelines around requiring the removal of cladding and we have done our bit as supervising officers of the authority in insisting that the owners of the building follow the procedures we’ve asked them to follow.
“They [the owners] will have internal procedures around health and safety and evacuation procedures but they [residents] should be aware the building has a particular type of cladding and make themselves aware of what the requirements of the buildings are in terms of safety.”
BCP council also confirmed to BUzz that the three high-rise buildings contain a percentage of ACM cladding in the council area.
The spokesperson said: “We can confirm that there are three buildings that contain a percentage of ACM cladding. These are Lansdowne Point, Orchard Plaza and Harbour Sail. The first two were occupied and served notice whilst the third was and remains unoccupied and no formal action has been taken to date.”
Orchard Plaza, Poole:
BUzz can reveal today that Orchard Plaza Management Company has been issued an Improvement Notice by BCP Council following a full survey undertaken in October 2019.
A number of remedial works are required on the 12-storey building, including removing flammable ACM cladding that makes up 30% of the exterior of the building and the installation of an Automatic Fire Detection system.
Tests undertaken following the Grenfell fire found that the 12-storey Poole residential building was partially clad in an ACM which has been identified as a fire risk.
Additionally, the high-pressure laminate (HPL) cladding fitted to the balance of the building has also now been identified as non-compliant.
A BCP Council spokesperson said the works to remove the hazard must commence within four months.
The spokesperson said: “Following a joint inspection with the Fire Service and government inspectors (MHCLG) of privately-owned flats, Orchard Plaza in Poole, an Improvement Notice has been served.
“The notice requires the Responsible Persons to remove the ACM cladding and High-Pressure Laminates (HPL) from the external of the building. The works must commence within four months and be completed within a further six months, giving 10 months in total to carry out this work.
“The Notice also requires the installation of an Automatic Fire Detection system BS 5839 – commencement within 28 days, completion 28 days thereafter.
“We have worked together with all of the agencies and the Responsible Persons in order to fully assess the position against the relatively new Housing Health and Safety Rating System guidance and considered the circumstances and evidence in great detail.
“Whilst we have been reassured by the recent progress relating to remedial works, given the time that has passed since the Grenfell tragedy and the current position with the property, we are duty bound to take this action.”
In accordance with the requirements of the National Fire Chiefs Council, a Waking Watch was instigated in December 2017, and Orchard Plaza continues to work with both BCP Council and Dorset & Wilts Fire Brigade whilst a specification of remedial works is prepared.
Quay Living is a firm of chartered surveyors which acts as block manager on behalf of Orchard Plaza Management Company.
Duncan Challis, partner at Quay Living told BUzz the decision to re-clad the building came as a “huge relief”.
He said: “Orchard Plaza Management Company, which bears responsibility for maintaining the building, is mutually owned by all the leaseholders. It has, therefore, come as a huge relief to residents to receive confirmation from Premier Guarantee that their claim to re-clad the building has been accepted.
“Whilst it has taken a lot of time and effort to get to this point, residents can be assured that the re-clad building will be one of the safest high-rise buildings in the region.”
Harbour Sail, Poole:
Built by Asda in 2005, the building is currently unoccupied after an investigation by Dorset Fire and Rescue advised leaseholders Stonewater Ltd to “decant” residents from the tower.
Today, BUzz can reveal that the 11‐storey social housing tower is the third building with combustible ACM cladding similar to that installed on Grenfell Tower.
Meetings were held with residents on Monday 18th January 2018 to discuss the necessary remedial works with two of Stonewater’s executive directors.
In a fire risk assessment update, Stonewater informed residents: “After seeking advice from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire Service we have decided to ask residents to decant Harbour Sail before work begins.”
The affordable housing contained a residential scheme of 32 apartments: five homes were fully owned by their residents, 13 were shared ownership and 14 were let to tenants on Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements, on intermediate rent.
Stonewater owns over 30,00 homes and reviewed arrangements across all its 14 ‘high rise’ schemes nationwide. The remaining 13 have all been inspected and the company was satisfied that they are safe to remain in occupation without requiring significant works.
A company spokesperson told BUzz news that a major programme of works is scheduled and due to begin soon.
They said: “A major programme of works is planned at Harbour Sail and all former residents are in alternative accommodation. The bulk of the work focuses on addressing latent defects within the fabric of the building, predominantly relating to leaks and drafts.
“There has been a complex and protracted legal process surrounding this, which has led to some delay in starting the refurbishment. The cladding is being removed as part of the works, although this is not the same as the type as used on Grenfell.
“We are also taking the opportunity to make improvements in fire safety measures as part of the wider refurbishment, which is now scheduled to begin shortly.”
At the time of decanting, Stonewater offered owners and shared owners a number of compensatory options including buyback equity at up to 100% of the value of the property with the defects remedied, and a £4,000 one-off upfront disturbance compensation payment.
The building remains closed awaiting refurbishment.
Lansdowne Point, Bournemouth:
Last week, BUzz revealed a catalogue of safety issues were discovered by inspectors at the landmark student accommodation tower in Bournemouth.
During a visit in September 2019, inspectors found “remedial action” was required to address “Category 1 hazards” – which is listed as the most serious.
An Improvement Notice issued to Lansdowne Point, in Holdenhurst Road revealed the building contained ACM (aluminium composite material) which is a type of combustible cladding which was banned on high-rise buildings after the Grenfell tragedy.
The 16 storey building holds 393 bedrooms, which is home to 400 residents from a mixture of education providers including Bournemouth University International College and is leased and managed by Kaplan Bournemouth Ltd.
Meetings throughout January 15 were held with concerned residents and gave tenants the option to leave Lansdowne Point while cladding similar to that used at Grenfell Tower is removed.
Inspectors also expressed concerns over the fire doors, sprinkler systems, emergency lighting and fire alarm system.
A resident at Lansdowne Point told BUzz that he ‘doesn’t feel safe’ staying in the accommodation.
The resident said: “After living in the property for five years, personally I don’t feel safe as they have recommended residents to move to other halls.
“I don’t feel it is safe to stay in the residence while the building is under construction.”
Kaplan Living Bournemouth told BUzz that it disagrees with aspects of the council improvement notice and will appeal.
A spokesperson for the company said: “Prior to receiving the notice, Kaplan had already provided assurances to the council that we would be removing the ACM and HPL cladding.
“We disagree with various other elements of the notice. Kaplan is preparing, along with its relevant experts, an appeal.”
Kaplan Living Bournemouth said it could not discuss the contents of the appeal because it is a legal matter but emphasised that in no way will the appeal effect the cladding removal process.
“The building’s cladding is being replaced without delay. We have always agreed with the Council’s assessment that the ACM and HPL cladding should be replaced.
“Let us be clear: we are appealing other elements of the Council’s assessment, unrelated to removal of the cladding. In no way will our appeals process delay the removal of cladding.”