Ipswich MP: Residents are 'literally living in the dark' at tower block

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

Plastic shrink-wrap covering an Ipswich tower block has left residents to "live in the dark", the town's MP has said. 

St Francis Tower, standing 17-storeys high, has had problems with its cladding post-Grenfell after the block failed fire safety tests.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said he was "very disturbed" to see the new material, believed to form part of the work to replace cladding, on his visit to the tower yesterday (Thursday, June 17). 

Mr Hunt added: "A massive shrink-wrap now covers the tower. My constituents are literally living in the dark, virtually no natural sunlight.

"No consultation and they've been told it could all last 18 months.

"Bizarrely, construction work on the building hasn't even started. I fear that this will be debilitating to the mental health of my constituents.

"I have already written one letter to the building manager but will be sending a second very strongly worded letter following my visit. I will also be alerting the housing minister and raising in parliament as many times as I need to until this is sorted.

"As a word 'angry' doesn't do justice to the emotions I felt when I left the tower." 

Tom Hunt MP in front of St Francis Tower in Ipswich with residents

Tom Hunt MP in front of St Francis Tower in Ipswich with residents - Credit: Tom Hunt MP's office

Earlier in the month, this paper's investigation team revealed that the wrap arrived in May with no warning from the building’s managing agents Block Management UK Ltd and has restricted light and airflow for residents. 

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Caroline Haydon-Knowell, who lives in the block, said: “We feel as though we are trapped inside shrink-wrap and this has a detrimental effect on mental health. This is particularly alarming to anyone who is housebound, suffering poor health, unable to go outside much, and especially to young children.”

In the months following the 2018 Grenfell fire disaster, St Francis Tower's owners found its HPL cladding posed a risk, installed a 24-hour waking watch and work began to strip cladding from the block. 

In early 2019 sprinkler, air vent and fire alarm systems were installed, and plans were drawn up for the new cladding. 

Removal work hit a hurdle later that year when gaping holes were discovered under the cladding and problems with windows were identified – meaning around 45% of it had to stay on. 

As of spring 2021, work is under way to remove the rest and roll out fire safety improvements

Block Management UK has been approached for comment on Mr Hunt's concerns.

- Read more coverage of cladding issues on the Archant Investigations Unit Facebook page.