Scottish councils step up tower block inspections
Local authorities across Scotland have carried out urgent assessments of their properties in the wake of the catastrophic incident at Grenfell Tower last week.
Councils in Aberdeen, Angus, South Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire have inspected their tower blocks to some degree, with more planned this week.
At least 79 people are expected to have been killed after a blaze broke out at the 24-storey tower in West London in the early hours of Wednesday morning, with the building’s external cladding suspected to have contributed to the spread of the fatal fire.
South Lanarkshire Council carried out an urgent assessment of its 21 high rise housing blocks and can confirm that none have been over clad with the same specification of materials as those used at Grenfell Tower.
As a further precaution the council is reviewing arrangements for each block in conjunction with colleagues in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to determine if any action is needed to improve fire safety.
If any improvement works are necessary details will be discussed with the tenants and residents of each block.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is also making officers available to undertake Home Fire Safety visits, in order to provide further reassurance and advice.
While there is a number of five and four storey buildings in Angus, there are no domestic buildings with a floor level above 18m, either in the ownership of Angus Council or Registered Social Landlords.
The council said: “While several of these blocks have been over-clad in the last 20 years it is important to note that the external wall insulation systems that have been used are mechanically fixed directly to the existing non-combustible cement rendered building finish with no air gap. All of our over-cladded buildings were designed to comply with Scottish Building Regulations and have been subject to building warrant approval, detailed design and specifications showing compliance with regulations and an inspection regime. We also install sprinkler systems in all of our new-build houses.
“While our initial assessments have provided us with assurances, our practice following any local or national incident is always to comprehensively review our arrangements and consider any improvements or actions needed.
“Officers from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will be part of this review. They already have robust emergency response plans in place, with location specific plans for the five storey blocks and we will jointly assess any need to have these updated.”
Surveys got underway on three high-rise properties in South Ayrshire yesterday as a precautionary measure to ensure that all properties meet relevant safety standards.
The council has responsibility for three thirteen-storey high flats at Riverside Place in Ayr, which are home to 234 households. The communal parts of the properties are subject to annual fire risk assessments and health and safety audits and the next annual site visit is scheduled to take place next month.
The flats were fitted with ‘mineral core’ external cladding in 1992 – this is a different product from the materials used on Grenfell Tower.
To provide assurances for residents, the council appointed a specialist architect to undertake inspection work which involved the removal of several cladding panels to allow checks to be carried out to inner layers as well as the external finish, and to compare the installation against current building regulations. The council has written to the residents in the high flats to advise them of this planned work.
Councillor Philip Saxton, South Ayrshire Council’s portfolio holder for housing and customer services, said the safety of residents and tenants was their first priority: “Following the recent, horrific events in London, we are carrying out a precautionary review of fire protection measures in our three high-rise blocks.
“While all three meet strict fire protection standards, the cladding was fitted 25 years ago and we need to ensure that the buildings continue to provide the level of safety our tenants would expect.
“We’re working closely with residents and tenants to keep them fully informed about the building inspections, which will be carried out in the next few days.”
Last week, Aberdeen City Council followed a number of Scottish social landlords in ordering a review of its high-rise properties following the incident and confirmed that all the cladding on its tower blocks have been designed to comply with Scottish Building Regulations.
The council said: “The safety and security of our tenants and residents is paramount and we can assure the public that we constantly ensure our buildings meet the required standards and regulations.
“However, in the wake of the fire in London, we are working closely with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service about additional advice which can be given to tenants and residents.
“While investigations are ongoing in London, there have been concerns in the media from tenants in London about over-cladding, and we would like to give the following assurances. All of our over-cladded buildings were designed to comply with Scottish Building Regulations, and have been subject to building warrant approval, detailed design and specifications showing compliance with regulations and an inspection regime.
“It is important to note that all materials employed in the over-cladding are fire resistant and fire stops are incorporated to cavities at party walls, party floors and around windows, which encloses the cavity area to further prevent any risk of fire spreading across the surface of the building. We will keep a close eye on the investigation into the London fire and check our multi storeys again if necessary.
“We have also checked the installation and maintenance of all of our fire alarms and all checks and tests of fire alarm systems in our multi storeys are currently up to date. Our fire alarms are checked and tested on a weekly basis.
“We would encourage all residents to become familiar with all of the fire safety information located in the communal areas of our buildings.”