Grenfell survivors housed in ‘high fire risk’ flats

21 August 2019

According to a fire risk assessment (FRA) report commissioned by a resident, the Hortensia Road flats survivors were moved to are subject to a ‘high risk of fire’.

The Guardian reported on the findings of the resident’s FRA for the block, into which survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 were moved in July 2018 by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The council acquired the new build from a private contractor as part of its plans to find 300 homes for survivors, but the FRA commissioned by a resident last month concluded that the building’s current ‘provisions’ for fire safety ‘were not satisfactory’.

In turn, the report found that the building ‘was at high risk of fire’, with combustible materials not separated from ignition sources, a smoke extraction system not working and ‘no adequate procedures’ for evacuating disabled residents. The FRA also found ‘no evidence’ of the cladding having been inspected, with no compartmentation ‘of a reasonable standard or reasonable limitation of linings that might promote fire spread’.

Another element of the FRA was that it was ‘critical’ of the building’s car park and refuse area’s ‘poor’ housekeeping, while there are no fire action notices at call points either. In response, shadow housing minister Sarah Jones MP said: ‘This is yet another example of how neither the Conservative government nor Kensington and Chelsea council have learned the lessons from the Grenfell tragedy.

‘No one should be living in unsafe buildings, but of all people, putting Grenfell survivors at risk of another fire is a complete disgrace. Two years after Grenfell, 60,000 people are still living in tower blocks with deadly ACM cladding, 95% of council blocks still don’t have sprinklers, and countless more could be at risk because the government has failed to do safety checks on most tower blocks.’

Morya Samuel, spokesperson for campaign group Justice4Grenfell, added: ‘It’s obvious that the council are not taking residents health and safety seriously. It’s obvious to us that the council is continuing its institutional indifference and has gone back to a business as usual approach. People have been saying the local authority just does not have any respect for the residents of North Kensington. If you can do this to people who have survived fire, it shows the lack of humanity and duty of care.’

In response, a council spokesperson criticised the FRA and said it ‘contains a number of errors and parts appear to be cut and pasted from other assessments’, while ‘there are also references to features which do not exist at Hortensia Road’. It also noted that the building had a sprinkler system, 30 minute fire resistant doors and a firefighter lift, with weekly block inspections undertaken to ensure communal areas were clear.

They added said: ‘Our first priority is the safety of our residents and we have been working closely with them from the beginning, keeping them regularly informed of progress. We undertook an enhanced, Type 3 FRA, on 18 July, the results of which we will be sharing with residents soon. This will include timescales to deal with the issues raised.

‘Many of the issues have already been addressed and we have recently replaced insulation around windows as recommended by the latest government advice.’

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Grenfell survivors housed in ‘high fire risk’ flats