Zenith Close London

HOMEOWNERS IN Barnet discovered that Kingspan’s Kooltherm K15 – subject to much criticism at the Grenfell inquiry – was being stockpiled outside their homes and was to be fitted to their building.

Mail Online reported on the concerns of residents in the Zenith Close development in Barnet, who discovered ‘crates’ of the insulation in their car park ‘at the start of works to make their properties safe’, despite K15 being ‘at the centre’ of the Grenfell inquiry having ‘failed a series of fire safety checks’ and turning one test rig into a ‘raging inferno’.

The crates were ordered by builders Hill Group, which responded that the K15 insulation had been ordered ‘in case the current insulation material’ – also K15 – was ‘damaged during repairs to defective fire breaks’. While it was pointed out that the firm was ‘following building regulations’, fire safety experts said there was ‘no excuse’ for retrofitting the material given its combustibility and fears around safety.

Resident Pam O’Donoghue spotted the crates of insulation last weekend, and noted that she and 71 other leaseholders in the block ‘have been unable to sell or remortgage’ homes since Zenith Close was ‘found to be a fire risk’ in relation to ‘defective fire breaks’ in June 2020. While Hill Group agreed to cover the costs of fixing the issues, residents were ‘furious’ that it planned to refit K15 ‘and fear they will have to pay to replace it again if tests later prove it is unsafe’.

The news outlet noted that this ‘will depend on how it combines with other materials in the building’, but added that K15 ‘has already been banned from use on newbuilds over 60ft tall’ – with Zenith Close above that height. However, ‘there is no outright ban on combustible insulation if these buildings are being made safe’, as is the case with the development.

In response, Miss O’Donoghue said the company was taking ‘a hell of a risk’, and added that ‘we’re living in these buildings and we don’t know how much of a death trap they are. It’s an ongoing nightmare’. Ash and Lacey’s Dr Jonathan Evans stated that Hill Group had made ‘a terrible decision’ to refit K15 ‘for the sake of the cost of replacing it’, while independent fire safety expert Stephen Mackenzie said regulations were ‘an absolute quagmire […] someone can and will die as a result’.

Local Conservative MP Dr Matthew Offord stated: ‘Developers appear to have learnt nothing from Grenfell if they press ahead in installing Kingspan K15. I have written to Hill Group expressing my deep concerns. This is causing unnecessary distress.’

In response to the story, a Hill spokesman said that K15 was approved by regulators and would be used to fix ‘incidental damage only’, adding that the firm was ‘confident’ the building would pass any further fire safety tests. However, London Fire Brigade requested that the K15 crates were removed from the site, with this done on Tuesday.

In August 2020 building surveys at the block found ‘fire safety defects’ in the external walls, with residents stating that they felt like ‘prisoners in their own homes’ having been told that flats were ‘effectively worthless’, as it ‘could be up to 42 months’ before the external wall review (EWS1) process was completed and ‘they can sell up and leave’.

The building was given a B2 rating, meaning combustible materials were found in walls and ‘an adequate standard of safety is not achieved, with combustible insulation having been installed and cavity barriers ‘missing’ around windows. Management company Notting Hill Genesis told residents the building ‘doesn’t match the drawings they were provided’ by Hill, with which it had a ‘design and build contract’ – meaning that the two firms are ‘locked in negotiations over who should pay’.

That process could take up to 42 months ‘before the building can be made safe again’, while residents were also concerned about the ‘thousands of pounds a year’ for a waking watch and new fire alarm system.