Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy many people have been worried about fire safety in residential high rise tower blocks. Recently I wrote to the Chief Executive of Glasgow City Council, to the Scottish Government, and to all Housing Associations in Glasgow North to seek assurances about the fire safety measures that are in place. Whilst investigations into the London fire are ongoing, it is crucial that as much support, reassurance and certainty as possible is provided to concerned residents in Glasgow North.
I asked for a brief report on how many residential multi-story blocks are in Glasgow North, who the relevant property managers are, when they were constructed, and how many have been refurbished recently. I also asked if exterior cladding has been applied and whether it was the same or similar to the cladding used in the Grenfell Tower and whether or not it is fire resistant. I asked for more information about the fire safety measures and procedures currently in place including the number of blocks that currently have sprinklers, fire and smoke alarms, and fire doors; what fire action advice is given to residents in the event of the fire; and how often fire assessment checks are carried out. Finally, I’ve asked to be kept up to date on any reviews and assessments that are currently ongoing, including any recommendations for improvements, and I will post this information on my website when it is available.
So far, I have received responses from the majority of the Housing Associations I wrote to, and would like to provide you with a brief outline of what they have said. As soon as I receive further responses from Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government I will share this information and provide a further update.
Glasgow Housing Association and Cube own 82 multi-story blocks of nine stories or more. I have been assured that the cladding used is different from the cladding used in Grenfell, and all building regulations, designed to prevent the spread of fire, have been followed. Fire non-combustible materials have been used, and many blocks have been fitted with sprinklers in the bin store areas with a programme in place to complete this work. Daily patrols are carried out to identify any risks in multi-story blocks. They have assured me that further recommendations or advice following investigations in Westminster will be implemented.
Glasgow West Housing Association are undertaking a review of the cladding and external wall insulation installed in their properties, and all materials meet minimum Scottish Building Standards Technical Regulations. This includes fire separation between flats and installation of non-combustible materials. There is ongoing safety awareness, including regular fire safety checks, concierge patrols, and investments in bin shoots.
Partick Housing Association own one multi-story block, Fortrose House in Fortrose Street, where there are 53 properties and 43 PHA tenants. It was refurbished by PHA in 2012, and the cladding used was phenolic foam insulation board manufactured by Kingspan, which has a zero rating for inflammability. During recent renovations 43 flats had fire-rated flat entrance doors and smoke detectors fitted, along with an alarm system and fire doors in the common areas. There is no sprinkler system fitted, however a fire risk assessment is due on the 5th of July and all safety measures will be reviewed then. The insulation material in the over-cladding will also be verified by sampling and testing if necessary.
Maryhill Housing Association own 3 multi-story blocks of 21 floors, with 360 flats in total. They also own 12 multi-story blocks of 8 floors, with 336 flats in total. The blocks were constructed prior to stock transfer in 2011, and all blocks have fire resistant Recticel and Structherm cladding. All have fire resistant doors, hard wired smoke alarms and dry risers on each floor. Regular fire safety checks are undertaken, and the next fire audit will be carried out in July 2017.
Queens Cross Housing Association own 10 multi-story blocks in Dundasvale, Woodside (Cedar Court) and Westercommon. The cladding used in Cedar Court is called StoTherm Mineral K, and in Dundasvale Court it is PermaRock Mineral Fibre, both are non-combustible, have no cavities between the boards and the concrete walls, and meets the Scottish Building Regulations. The communal fire doors and ground floor exits are also currently being upgraded, and there will be fire escape balconies and new canopies at the ground floor level. A new internal working group has been set up following the tragedy and will look at all aspects of fire safety.
Fire Safety Advice
All housing associations in Glasgow North are working closely with the Scottish Fire and Rescue service. In the event of a fire, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service advise multi-story residents to stay in place to allow controlled fire-fighting and evacuation, as deemed appropriate by them at the time. You can find more detailed advice about what to do in the event of a fire, via the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service leaflet here. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will continue to carry out additional operational assurance visits to high-rise buildings across Scotland, and since the Grenfell Tower fire, over 200 visits have been carried out by the SFRS to residents in high-rise buildings.
As you may be aware, Scottish Building Standards are devolved, and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service works closely with local authorities and housing associations to ensure the safety of occupants in high rise buildings. Following the events at Grenfell, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Communities established a Ministerial Working Group on Building and Fire Safety and last week reported that all 32 local authorities across Scotland have confirmed that no council or housing association high rise domestic building have the type of cladding reported to have been used in the Grenfell tower – Aluminium Composite Material (ACM). I understand that they are awaiting confirmation that no privately owned buildings have the cladding, and local authorities are completing the investigations as a matter of urgency.
Please be assured that along with my colleagues in the Scottish Government, and Glasgow City Council, I will continue to monitor the situation over the coming weeks and publicise more information as I have it.
In Westminster, the SNP will continue to push the government on providing appropriate support to those affected, and on the disastrous housing policy that has led to successive governments undervaluing the importance of safe and affordable social housing. On the 22nd of June the leader of the SNP in Westminster, Ian Blackford MP, spoke at length a Westminster debate on the Grenfell tower on the 22nd of June. I would like to echo his tribute to the emergency services, and the enormous debt of gratitude we owe them. He described the Grenfell fire as a defining moment in the evolution of our society, and welcomed the public inquiry on the condition that all bereaved families and survivors as well as individuals and organisations with an interest are included in the inquiry. You can see a full transcript of his contribution to the debate here.
Most recently my colleague Alison Thewliss MP, drew attention to the merits of learning from other devolved administrations across the UK, such as the Scottish Government, and asked whether there would be Scottish representatives on the UK Government’s newly proposed expert advisory panel. You can see her full contribution to the Adjournment debate on the 26th of June here.
If you have specific concerns or questions about the block you live in, please contact your local housing team. For residents of Glasgow West Housing Association contact the property services team on 0141 331 6652.
For residents of Partick Housing Association contact 0141 357 3773 or visit their office at 10 Mansfield Street. More information is also on their website: http://www.partickha.org.uk/
For residents of Glasgow Housing Association or Cube HA, they are in the process of setting up a helpline, so in the meantime contact 0800 479 7979
For further information from the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service or to arrange a fire safety assessment please contact them directly on 0800 0731 999.