'Unacceptable' plastic wrap could remain on Ipswich block for another year

Plastic wrapping on an Ipswich tower block could remain in place for up to 12 months

Plastic wrapping on an Ipswich tower block could remain in place for up to 12 months - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has hit out at the owners of the plastic-wrapped St Francis Tower after they revealed the "unacceptable" conditions could remain for as much as a year.

The 17-storey tower has been covered in the plastic sheeting since late May, with residents complaining it arrived without warning before metal poles restricting their windows were later installed.

Conditions at the tower were first revealed by this newspaper in 2018, after a failed safety test found the building to be covered in unsafe cladding.

Metal scaffolding poles, with yellow stoppers, have been fixed to the windows of St Francis Tower in Ipswich

Metal scaffolding poles, with yellow stoppers, have been fixed to the windows of St Francis Tower in Ipswich - Credit: CAROLINE HAYDON/KNOWELL

Owners Block Management UK had been contacted numerous times via telephone and email for comment before it published a statement on the latest works on Monday.

In its statement, the company said the tower is the first building to secure funding through the government's Building Safety Fund, and that all unsafe cladding should be removed and restored by the end of next year.

It said the flame-retardant wrap is used to protect workers from falling and ensures work can be carried out in all weather conditions. It added its intentions are for the wrapping to be removed within 12 months.

Restricting the window openings to 10cm comes as part of guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it continued.

Interior view of the plastic wrap covering St Francis Tower in Ipswich

Interior view of the plastic wrap covering St Francis Tower in Ipswich - Credit: CAROLINE HAYDON-KNOWELL

The company said it "understands" that not all tenants "were sufficiently notified" ahead of this year's works and that all occupants will be written to beforehand in future, with communal notices also put in place complete with contact details for the company.

The statement read: "We have worked swiftly and efficiently to be the first building in the country to secure funding under the Building Safety Fund.

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"We do understand these cladding removal measures are having an impact on residents, and we ask for their understanding that we have a duty to prioritise their safety above all else and we thank them for their continued patience.

"We hope that once the work is completed residents of the building will enjoy greatly reduced stress and anxiety knowing their homes have been made safe."

Tom Hunt

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said he is not satisfied with the long-awaited statement - Credit: House of Commons

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said he was pleased work has begun, but stressed he remains dissatisfied with the wrapping remaining for up to 12 months.

He said: "That could be 10 months, it could be 11 months. Unfortunately I am still a long, long way from being satisfied by this situation.

"What is needed is an approach that yes, carries out the work needed, but does so in a way that respects the lives of those living inside.

"From what I can see from this response, residents are still going to be living in conditions which are totally unacceptable.

"This is far from a minor inconvenience. This is a dramatic deterioration of the quality of life of residents."

Mr Hunt added he intends to raise the issue in parliament in the coming days.

Tom Hunt MP

Tom Hunt MP said residents of St Francis Tower in Ipswich are "literally living in the dark". - Credit: Tom Hunt MP's office

In a statement, Ipswich Cladiators said: "Ipswich Cladiators is relieved to hear that cladding removal work has started today. Despite the terrible living conditions for all residents, work to make the building safe is essential.

"Up until now, the communication from Block Management UK has clearly been lacking and if better, would have avoided most of the anger and despair.

"The issue still remains where residents are expected to live through the terrible conditions of a remediation project and the advice from HSE will surely result in other Ipswich blocks facing the same fate."

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