Ipswich tower block had ‘same-style cladding as Bolton flats’
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A brand of cladding material intended for use on a student block in Bolton – which was engulfed in flames earlier this month – is named in pre-planning documents as the same kind used on St Francis Tower in Ipswich, it has emerged.
According to documents prepared ahead of the Bolton Cube development, a brand of high pressure laminate (HPL) cladding called Trespa Meteon was intended for use on the block, which went up in flames on Friday, November 15.
However, this material may have been substituted last minute, or during construction, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
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Witnesses said the fire, which left two people injured, was "crawling up the cladding like it was nothing".
In December last year, tribunal judge Graham Sinclair said Trespa cladding was in use on the Ipswich block before the majority of it was taken down earlier this year. Some remains on one side of the building, as there are gaping holes underneath the cladding, and major repairs to the windows need to be undertaken.
Block Management UK Ltd, which has overseen the block since 2016, also specifies this brand as the material used to clad the tower in a blog post on their website.
It had a 'fire load' of 216 mJ/m2, he told the tribunal, adding that "if ignited, the Trespa cladding in use on the block had the ability to produce two-thirds more heat than petrol".
In July, the MHCLG said there should be no high-rise buildings in the country with HPL and combustible insulation.
However, it is down to the building owner to remove this combination.
Next month, scaffolding is due to go up on the 17-storey building, with cladding replacement works expected to take place in early 2020.
It was originally hoped replacement work would commence in October.
What have the owners and fire service said about the issue?
A spokesman for current owners RG Securities No. 2 said: "We remain committed to resolving the issues at St Francis Tower as quickly as possible. When Block Management and RG Securities No. 2 first learnt about the cladding they took immediate action. As a result, there is no longer a risk of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service serving a prohibition notice requiring the building to be vacated or of insurers declining to provide cover. We are continuing to work very closely with Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, Ipswich Borough Council, UKAS accredited fire risk assessors and expert surveyors. The work to the building has been expanded to now also include major repairs to the windows. This has meant a delay to the work commencing but will improve the final result and reduce the need for further repairs in the near future."
Trespa, which manufactures the material, has been contacted for comment.
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A fire service spokesman said it has an excellent and productive relationship with all involved in the St Francis Tower case.
"We have all worked together to significantly reduce any fire risk at the premises," the spokesman added.
"Any cladding which currently remains on the building is for additional health and safety reasons, on the advice of a cladding contractor.
"It is planned for all cladding to be replaced subject to building regulations approval."
In the meantime, the spokesman recommended all residents familiarise themselves with the current evacuation strategy.
- Concerned residents can contact the managing agents on 01473 558583.
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