On 14 June, we marked the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, which represents the greatest loss of life in a residential fire since the second world war.
The fact the tragedy was clearly preventable has had a huge impact across the housing sector, of which the issue of combustible cladding is only a part. The Fire Safety Act (2021) and the incoming Building Safety Act (2022) both have their roots in what has been learned from Grenfell Tower.
We acted quickly when the dangers of certain cladding systems became clear following the June 2017 Grenfell fire. Government safety tests were carried out on high-rise blocks across the country and three of our blocks in New Cross were found to have potentially dangerous cladding. We immediately introduced a 24-hour fire patrol service in the buildings and engaged contractors to carry out safety works and remove the cladding as a matter of urgency. The final panel was removed in December 2017, and the process began on installing a safe alternative, with cladding being re-applied from February 2020 and now complete. This was alongside a broad refurbishment and fire safety programme for the three buildings.
We have been proactive in fire safety across our housing stock, with a well-established fire safety team and 100% compliance in fire risk assessments (undertaken by external assessors). Our management of fire risk achieved British Standard 9997 accreditation in 2021, and we’re very proud that we were only the second housing organisation in the country to achieve this and the first London Council.
We have also established a new building safety team to respond the Building Safety Act (2022). Our senior building safety manager has been in post since March 2021, and has been building up the team and working with the Health and Safety Executive on our first draft building safety case. These will eventually be rolled out for all our 54 high-rise residential buildings (seven storeys or more, or above 18 metres) and incorporate a wealth of fire safety and other safety information on each building; they are designed to provide evidence for our residents on the safety of their homes, so we can be confident that our residents are safe – and feel safe – in their homes.
Highlights in our fire safety improvements include:
- Instituting our Clear Corridors policy to prevent storage of any items in communal areas which can be easily set alight, support the growth of a fire or that restrict access in or out of our building.
- Carrying out type 4 fire risk assessments in most of our high-rise blocks (work ongoing)
- Carrying out major fire safety works on the Pepys Estate.
- Carrying out façade reports on all our buildings over 18m in height
- Creating a new building safety team, with a total of eight new appointments
- Undertaking new plan drawings for our buildings over 18m in height (to be completed end of June)
- Installing premises information boxes for access for emergency services on safety information in all buildings 18m and over (in progress)