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Council’s additional checks on cladding on high-rise flats exposes fire-safety issues
Additional checks carried out by Cardiff Council on its high-rise blocks of flats have revealed that cladding systems on six buildings do not meet current fire-safety standards, despite the fact all six were given a clean-bill of health in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire.

Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London last year, the Council reviewed fire safety in all of its high-rise blocks across the city, including inspections by external consultants on cladding to see if Aluminium Composite Materials (ACM) were present in any of the blocks. The results came back negative.

The ACM checks were all the Council was required by Government to carry out post-Grenfell. However, consultants did recommend further testing on the cladding to give complete assurance on its safety and so the authority decided to carry out additional tests to establish if the cladding, which was installed in the 1990s, would meet today’s more stringent fire safety standards.

Since Grenfell, the UK’s testing centres for cladding have been working at capacity with the priority being to test the combustibility of ACM panels. This has meant that Cardiff needed to commission its own additional tests using private, specialist firms. Testing was commissioned for all of our six high-rise blocks with cladding. These tests results have only recently been received. They show that the cladding systems consist of veneered, fibrous-hardwood, rainscreen panels that fail today’s combustibility standards.

Our checks have also revealed that there are no firebreaks built into the cladding system on the exterior of the buildings in question. While this was not required by regulations at the time of installation, today’s standards are much higher and we are also taking this into account.

The flats affected are Lydstep Flats, Llandaff North (3 blocks), Loudoun and Nelson House, Butetown and Channel View, Grangetown.

Additional safety measures have already been put in place in the blocks including round-the-clock fire warden patrols and increased CCTV monitoring.  All flats have smoke detectors fitted and these are checked annually as are gas appliances.

The Council had already taken the decision to upgrade fire doors to above set standards in all of its high-rise blocks, replacing the 30-minute integrity doors with higher specification 60-minute fire doors. This will be completed by May. All of the Council’s high-rise blocks are also set to be fitted with sprinklers.

Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, Cllr Lynda Thorne, said: “Following last summer’s tragedy at Grenfell and with tenant safety as our top priority, the council decided to go beyond the initial review of our cladding systems that checked for ACM to make sure there were no other issues with the materials cladding our high rises.

“Unfortunately, the results of these extra tests have established that the cladding on six blocks fail current standards.

“Naturally, everyone living in these blocks will be very concerned by this news but I want to reassure them that we are working closely with South Wales Fire and Rescue Service to ensure we follow the latest fire-safety guidance and to decide the best way forward.

“I believe we are the first Council in the UK to carry out these additional checks on cladding, because of this and because of the results, we have informed Welsh Government and we will also be informing the UK Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government.”

It is likely that the cladding on all blocks affected will need to be removed and the Council is currently looking at the best way to achieve this. In the meantime we are working in partnership with the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service to ensure that we follow the latest fire-safety guidance.