Ministers seek ‘additional reassurance’ on fire safety of high-rise buildings

Angela Constance
Angela Constance

The ministerial task group set up in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster is to seek “additional reassurance” from local authorities with regard to the safety of high rise buildings.

The group wants specific analysis of high rise domestic properties and non domestic high rise buildings with sleeping accommodation pre-2005, when building regulations relating to the fire safety of cladding systems were strengthened to meet stringent fire tests.

Confirmation of the additional reassurance measures came in an update on Post Grenfell high-rise safety assessment put to the Scottish Parliament yesterday.

In a statement to Holyrood, communities secretary and task group member Angela Constance MSP said the recently commissioned inventory of domestic high-rise buildings over 18 metres, which will include construction type and fire safety features, is expected to be complete by next Spring.

“We will then consider how it can be maintained in the future,” the minster added.

Holyrood heard that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has distributed over 60,000 comprehensive fire safety leaflets, carried out around 890 operational assurance visits to high rise domestic properties and over 1200 individual home fire safety visits.

The group also asked the Fire Service to extend and refresh their multi-story fire safety campaign.

Launched last month, the campaign gives information and advice on what to do if there is a fire in a high rise building. The campaign promotes fire safety advice about living in high-rise buildings and will run for the remainder of this year.

The communities secretary was then pressed on when the Scottish Government had been informed of the discovery that Grenfell-style cladding had been found on tower blocks in Glasgow.

Glasgow City Council revealed in September that combustible cladding might be present on almost 60 private high rise buildings, a number that was later reduced to 19.

Ms Constance had previously told the Parliament that the local authority had notified Scottish Government standards officials of the finding late on September 5.

But private emails released after a freedom of information request made by the Scottish Conservatives show that the government’s head of building standards, Bill Dodds, was informed about a group of flats that had aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on August 17.

Tory housing spokesman Graham Simpson said: “The Cabinet Secretary mentioned cladding in her statement. She told this parliament on September 21 that the Government was informed on September 5 that some flats in Glasgow may have ACM cladding.

“But we have email evidence that suggests the government knew three weeks earlier than that. Can Angela Constance confirm exactly when government officials and ministers were told about that cladding?”

In response, Ms Constance said: “We have been transparent about the work that we’re leading in the ministerial working group. We’re always happy to provide further detail.

“I think it is important to stress that over the past few months we have received and do receive information from concerned people, whether that’s building owners or local authorities, and as a result of that information we have had to dig deeper to clarify at times what that information says. So I don’t accept Mr Simpson’s characterisation of how he has presented the facts around Glasgow.

“There has been intensive engagement between officials and Glasgow City Council officials to clarify what the issues are and the nature of those issues and to get really specific information, because it is imperative that when we come to our feet with information that that information is indeed accurate.”

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