Agenda item

New Item of Urgent Business - Fire Safety

To consider any items admitted at item 3 above.



Following recent events in Kensington, the Chair advised that thoughts and sympathies were with all those who had lost their lives or been affected by the terrible Grenfell Tower tragedy.


It was acknowledged that it was not yet known what had caused the fire or why it had spread in the way that it had. However, the tragedy had understandably raised a number of questions and concerns about fire safety.   


In terms of tower block fire safety in Haringey, the Panel was informed that: 


-       54 blocks over 6 storeys high were managed by Homes for Haringey.


-       None of the blocks managed by Homes for Haringey had the Reynobond aluminium system that had been used on Grenfell Tower.


-       All exterior cladding on properties managed by Homes for Haringey had met the specifications for this type of work and complied with building regulations.


-       All Homes for Haringey managed tower blocks had valid Fire Risk Assessments with established processes for ongoing monitoring including regular checks with the communal areas and regular servicing of fire-fighting equipment. 


-       Homes for Haringey employed two full time, appropriately qualified, fire risk assessors.


-       Homes for Haringey staff had visited every high rise block and inspected communal areas and access routes to ensure they were clear.


In response to questions, the Panel was informed that the procedures used by Homes for Haringey were in line with the London Fire Brigade’s audit tool for fire safety.    


As an additional measure of re-assurance the Panel was informed fire risk assessors would, during the following week, visit every high rise block in order to review fire risk assessments and speak to residents.


In terms of non-council owned tower blocks, officers explained work was under way to ensure the Council had a record of all high rise blocks in the borough, and to understand any challenges faced.


A number of questions were raised in relation to Rivers Apartments, a new 22 storey tower situated in Tottenham. In response, officers provided an update from Newlon Housing Trust, who owned the property, with the following points being noted:


-       Rivers Apartments completed in the spring of 2015 and had been clad with Reynobond PE. It was confirmed this was the same as the cladding used on Grenfell Tower. 


-       London Fire Brigade had carried out an extensive safety audit on 22 June 2017 and had made some minor recommendations for the building.


-       Newlon Housing Trust had started work on the recommendations and had requested some additional technical clarifications. However, subject to meeting these recommendations, the Fire Brigade had confirmed they were satisfied Rivers Apartments should be considered a low fire risk building.


The Panel was informed Rivers Apartments was a modern building with many active fire safety systems including a sprinkler system, wet riser, a firefighter’s lift and smoke evacuation valves.


With regard to the status of the cladding the Panel was informed that the Building Research Establishment (BRE) had been asked to review its design and specification. It was noted that Newlon Housing Trust was waiting for these technical and independent recommendations before determining whether or not the cladding should be removed and if so what the appropriate replacement should be.


In view of the concerns that had been raised the Panel strongly suggested, as a precautionary measure, that the cladding on Rivers Apartments should be replaced. The Panel also agreed that the Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration and Planning should provide an update, as soon as possible, to all councillors to confirm what action would be taken.  


The Chair concluded by providing an update on scrutiny work that would be undertaken during the summer.  The Panel was informed the Overview and Scrutiny Committee would lead this by receiving updates on inspections already underway and by reviewing wider responsibilities of the council and Homes for Haringey. Subject to final scoping, this would include consideration of issues relating to: planning policy; building regulations; the resources available to support adequate inspection; questions arising from construction materials; and the council’s response, as landlord and regulator; following initial findings from the national Grenfell inquiry.


To avoid possible duplication, the Panel suggested the Overview and Scrutiny Committee should liaise with the Homes from Haringey Residents’ Panel before the scope of the project was confirmed.


AGREED: That the update on tower block fire safety be noted.