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Ipswich flats 'unfit for habitation', MP tells Grenfell debate

PUBLISHED: 17:30 30 October 2019 | UPDATED: 11:50 31 October 2019

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin at St Francis Tower. Picture: SANDY MARTIN

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin at St Francis Tower. Picture: SANDY MARTIN

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Ipswich MP Sandy Martin has claimed St Francis Tower, home to hundreds of people, is "no longer fit for habitation" during a debate on the Grenfell disaster in Parliament today.

He challenged former Prime Minister Theresa May in the House of Commons today over the 17-storey block in Ipswich, which has had most of its cladding removed, as part of a discussion about the Grenfell inquiry.

Mr Martin said the building, made up of 116 flats, is "no longer fit for habitation because the cladding has been removed and there are now gaps around all the windows".

Earlier this year, it emerged that at the time of its refurbishment in 2005 the block appeared to have no building control sign off, while a tribunal heard the material covering the tower had the ability to produce "two thirds more heat than petrol" if ignited.

MORE: St Francis Tower - What we've learned about safety of tower block a year on

Speaking in Parliament today, Mr Martin said: "There are hundreds and hundreds of families still living in conditions which are completely unacceptable because actions have not been taken, actions which could be taken prior to part 2 (of the Grenfell Tower report) coming forward.

Cladding has been removed from the outside of St Francis Tower on Franciscan Way in Ipswich  
Picture:  Neil PerryCladding has been removed from the outside of St Francis Tower on Franciscan Way in Ipswich Picture: Neil Perry

"In for instance St Francis Tower, in my own constituency, people living in a building which is quite frankly no longer fit for habitation because the cladding has been removed and there are now gaps around all the windows."

MPs have been discussing the Grenfell Tower tragedy, which claimed 72 lives, in the Commons today after the inquiry's initial report was published.

Mrs May responded directly to Mr Martin, and said: "Of course the government has put in place both support for local authorities to take action in relation to the cladding, and support for the private sector to take action in relation to cladding and also the department has also been ensuring that tests are undertaken on other cladding on these buildings.

"We also of course initiated Dame Judith Hackitt's report and are clear that the recommendations of that report have been accepted by the government."

St Francis Tower's managing agents, Block Management UK Ltd, said: "Block Management UK Ltd and their client stand by the correct information provided by Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service at the end of this article."

The company and client disagreed with the remarks made by Mr Martin, which they described as "inaccurate".

'Suffolk looking closely at report'

Dan Fearn, deputy chief fire officer at Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said: "Since the Grenfell Tower fire, SFRS has visited and inspected all of its high rise residential buildings to make sure the owners have appropriate fire safety arrangements in place.

"Like all fire services, Suffolk is looking closely at the report from the first phase of the public inquiry published this morning.

"Where it is appropriate for us to make changes from the lessons learnt from this terrible fire we will do so, and much of these will be in a co-ordinated way with all other fire and rescue services and through the National Fire Chiefs' Council who are the professional advisors to Government on fire service matters."

Regarding St Francis Tower, he added: "SFRS has an excellent, productive relationship with all parties involved at St Francis Tower who have all worked together to significantly reduce any fire risk at the premises.

"This includes the installation of a fully functioning sprinkler system, a fully interlinked fire detection and alarm system, improved ventilation and a temporary evacuation policy.

"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."

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