Monday 26 June 2017

Brent Fire Safety Update and latest on Special Meeting

--> Fire Safety Update for Councillors(Peter Gadsdon, Brent Council Director Policy, Performance and Partnerships)

Thank you to all members who attended the briefings during the week on the council’s response following the Grenfell Tower fire. Slides from the presentation are available for any members who would like them.

Brent Council has 37 high-rise blocks with only Watling Gardens cladded. The cladding at Watling Gardens is made of a non-combustible mineral wool material – completely different to that used on Grenfell Tower. Residents from Watling Gardens had a demonstration from Rockwool, the manufacturers of the cladding, at a public meeting on Tuesday to show the impressive fire resistance of the material.

An interactive map, including more information about the council’s high rise blocks and fire risk assessments, is available from the link at the top of this

In addition to the extensive double checks carried out on council blocks, the council has also asked all registered social and private housing providers in Brent to share details of any cladding used on their high rise buildings.

So far, only Octavia has told us that there are concerns with one of their properties. Octavia reports that there are concerns about two products used on their Elizabeth House development on Wembley following the Government’s testing of their samples.

Elizabeth House is a 13 storey new build block which was completed in July 2013 and comprises 115 flats mainly for affordable rent and private sale. The council has 23 families in the block.

The exterior of Elizabeth House is made up of a mixture of Alucobond, Vitrabond and Terracotta Ceremic. All of the products used have appropriate certifications. However, Octavia sent samples of the two Aluminium Composite Material products for testing (Alucoband and Vitrabond) and was notified today (23.6.17) that the DCLG has concerns.

Octavia is working with the DCLG and council to ensure that the building is safe and moved quickly to communicate with residents. Octavia has told us that the Fire Brigade has double checked their plans of the building and is confident that any fire risk is being appropriately managed. Unlike Grenfell or old blocks that have been refurbished, Elizabeth House is a modern purpose built block with a comprehensive fire strategy and a range of 21st century fire safety features in place including:

           Sprinklers in all flats
- Automatic smoke ventilation systems in common areas to ensure they remain smoke free in the event of fire
- Smoke and heat detectors in all flats as well as fire entrance doors
- Smoke detectors in common areas linked to a central control panel
- A design that includes fire stopping and compartmentalisation

Octavia has arranged for people to make patrols 24/7throughout the day and night at Elizabeth House for added safety and reassurance. A site visit with the Fire Brigade has also been arranged where the Fire Brigade will be advising Octavia on next steps.

Hope this clarifies the situation.


Cllr Shama Tatler

Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Growth, Employment and Skills

Meanwhile Cllr John Duffy is in correspondence regarding a Special Council Meeting about the issue on July 3rd.  This could be at 6pm ahead of a Labour Group Meeting at 7.30pm.  

Responding to Cllr Dixon's suggestion and request for questions, Cllr Duffy said:
How on earth can you have questions until you have a full explanation from officer with clear options and a strategy?

Liz it's not a show  with premeditated questions this has major implications for the re-gen and repairs programme. We have to set up a safety audit on some of the tower  block we need to look at our landlord certificates . We need to see if we have up to date RCDs and our maintenance/repairs programme is of a high standard.we have high rises that are due to decanted and demolished next year and I feel these blocks may have let Standards slip  because of changes  to the management 
I think your decision not to change the Labour group meeting to Tuesday  means that the council meeting will be shortened.This sends out a bad message  to residents about our priorities.

I have no question because I have not seen the officers report or recommendations and I will certainly not conform to your one question 3 minute  clock watching meeting as this is far to serious. This should be a examination of the proposal and Cllrs should be able to raise as many questions as they think are relevant.John McDonnell has just said these unfortunate council tenants were murdered by political decisions or in my opinion lack  of political decisions and its our duty to ensure we robustly question officers, how ever long it takes.

When you all troop of to your group meeting, I am requesting the CEO and officers stay behind to answer further questions even if its block by block, road by road until councillors are satisfied.

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