Newham’s response to Grenfell Towers

Seyi  writes…

Following the devastating fires at Grenfell Tower residents have raised concerns about particular blocks in the ward and in Maryland. I thought it might be helpful to collate key information in once place for residents and provide reassurance that all assessments and actions are taking place. If residents have any questions please do not hestitate to get in touch myself, Rachel or Anaum.

In the immediate wake of the fire at Grenfell Tower Newham Council accelerated its ongoing programme of fire risk assessments in council buildings, with priority given to tall buildings.

Forest Gate North ward has only one tall Newham Council block, Janson Close. Janson Close is 11 storeys high.  The last fire risk assessment was 4th April 2017 and the next fire assessment is due April 2018. Janson Close does not have the same external cladding made of aluminium composite material (ACM) that was used in Grenfell Tower.

Here is a reminder of Newham’s Fire Safety Advice:

  • • test the smoke alarm in your property regularly
  • • keep balconies and all communal areas free from rubbish, bicycles,electrical appliances or any clutter
  • make sure they know where your nearest fire exit is
  • if you are a smoker, please do not smoke in communal areas
  • always fully extinguishing cigarettes smoked in your home and dispose of them carefully and safely.

 

There will be an Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on Tuesday 4th July, 7pm, discussing Health and Safety in high rise residential blocks. All OSC meetings are public and FGN residents can submit questions they would like me to put forward.

Screenshot_20170626-184815

The Mayoral Advisor for Housing has also written to all Housing Associations asking them to also conduct the necessary investigations and assessments. In Forest Gate North we have a few Swan Housing blocks. Below is an email I received on 20th June:

“Whilst our thoughts continue to be with those directly affected by the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, I am clear that our priority at this stage is twofold.  Firstly, we must provide as much reassurance as possible to our residents and stakeholders, recognising that this situation is particularly worrying to those who live in taller buildings.  Secondly, we must ensure that we have a clear understanding of our position regarding our tall buildings, so that we stand ready to respond proactively to any recommendations made as a result of this tragic event.

Some of you have been in contact over the past few days, however I wanted to write directly to our key stakeholders to ensure you are aware of the action we have taken so far and our plans for the coming days:

Action taken so far:

  • As well as carrying out immediate inspections of our blocks to ensure they were free of internal obstruction in line with our policy, we ensured fire safety advice was prominent on our dedicated resident website web4residents.org.uk and on www.swan.org.uk, including video safety advice from London Fire Brigade. We also briefed our front line teams on London Fire Brigade’s “stay put” advice and were able to refer residents to our website in the first instance.
  • We have reviewed all Fire Risk Assessments for our “high rise” blocks and confirmed they are all up to date and actions complete.
  • We have commenced a desk top review of all our blocks above five storeys.
  • By Friday afternoon, we had confirmed to our residents that:
  • We were reviewing all of our taller residential blocks and will consider any immediate lessons that can be learnt from Grenfell Tower.
  • Our refurbishment of the towers at Bow Cross in Tower Hamlets did not use the same external cladding as that on the Grenfell Tower. (We can also now clarify that they do not contain Aluminium Composite Material (“ACM”)).
  • Our properties at Oldchurch Park Romford are new build properties which have not been over clad and do not use the same external cladding as that on Grenfell Tower.
  • We proactively manage fire risk. We have up to date Fire Risk Assessments in place in all of our residential blocks that require them, including our taller residential buildings, and work closely with the London Fire Brigade, as our primary authority partner, to discuss fire safety requirements.
  • Our Health and Safety Consultants regularly inspect our buildings and our Estates Services Teams will continue to carry out their regular inspections of communal areas to ensure they are kept free of any items that might hinder residents exiting the building in an emergency.

Our desktop review has continued over the weekend and this week, as a result I am able to confirm:

  • After identifying blocks over 5 storeys, we targeted our detailed analysis on the cladding used in these buildings, highlighting blocks which are not built of brick and/or render.
  • We are now carrying out detailed analysis of these buildings to confirm if they have ACM present in the cladding, as requested by the Department of Communities and Local Government (“DCLG”), by reviewing the information in our asset management records, the building plans and drawings.
  • In the majority of cases, the blocks are owned and managed by us, but where they are not, we are contacting the owners to establish more details.
  • If this desk top exercise does not provide sufficient clarity on any materials used or highlights any potential for ACM to be present, then we will undertake site visits and carry out more intrusive surveys and testing in line with DCLG recommendations.

This work will both enable us to be prepared to deal with any recommendations that are forthcoming following this tragic incident and also to reassure our residents.

I hope that this information about our immediate response and plans for the coming days is reassuring and demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the safety of our residents.  I will continue to keep you updated as our review continues and the lessons emerge from the ongoing fire investigation. Please feel free to share this information with your colleagues as appropriate. ”

On a side note I’d like to thank all residents that donated items to Coffee7 or 306 High Street. We have managed to send over 1/3rd of items over to survivors and are working with locally community groups to send some more needed donations this weekend. If you are keen to volunteer please do get in touch.

About Seyi Akiwowo

Elected London Councillor & International Facilitator on active citizens, soft skills, social integration and sustainable development.
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