Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Fire safety tests on building cladding, continued.

After the government asked authorities responsible for 600 tower blocks with aluminium compound cladding to submit samples for fire safety testing, the latest position on Monday was that  26 local housing authorities have so far complied. They have submitted samples of cladding from 75 high rise buildings for testing and as of Monday it is still the case that every one has failed.

Fire safety experts have asked for  greater transparency about exactly what tests the Building Research Establishment (BRE) at Bricket Wood between Watford and St Albans is conducting.

That's a legitimate request but, having been to the BRE while I was a St Albans councillor (it's actually in the local authority area of the City and District of St Albans) I am satisfied that they would not be producing such alarming results unless there were genuine cause for concern or to dance to any government agenda.

As I wrote on Sunday, it is still too early to start pointing the finger of blame at individuals, but no longer too early to recognise that we appear to have a problem far more serious than a failure by one council, one small group of people, or one part of the political spectrum; we seem to face a nationwide and long-term systemic failure of fire regulation.

Inadequate fire safety rules and enforcement appear to have been in place while ministers from every major party have been in office and councils of every pattern of political control are responsible for buildings in which fire safety is in urgent need of improvement.

This should be a spur to people in all parts of the political spectrum, not to use the tragic deaths at Grenfell Tower for scoring partisan points which look increasingly hypocritical, but rather to take positive and urgent action to actually address the need to improve fire safety in hundreds of tall buildings throughout the UK.

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