Watch workers strip cladding off Ipswich tower block amid Grenfell safety concerns

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge - Credit: Rachel Edge

A major operation to strip cladding from one of Suffolk’s highest tower blocks has begun – with workers spotted scaling the building this week.

St Francis Tower, Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

St Francis Tower, Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

In a process expected to take six to eight weeks, material is now being removed from the 17-storey St Francis Tower in Ipswich, amid safety fears prompted by the Grenfell fire tragedy.

The work was ordered by the building’s owner following a series of fire safety tests.

Assessments carried out by Block Management Ltd, which took over the building in 2016, concluded cladding should be stripped off to “mitigate risk”.

In recent days, onlookers have been gathering outside the tower – which at approximately 172ft tall is a landmark on the Ipswich skyline – to watch as its appearance is transformed.

Bosses at Block Management Ltd are continuing to reassure people living in the tower as the work gets under way.

A statement from the company said: “Resident safety is paramount to Block Management UK Ltd.

“The tragedy of Grenfell changed everything relating to the safety of residents, particularly those residing in high rise blocks.”

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Operations director Simon Matthews added that the work – which started on schedule – is being done to “protect everyone”.

St Francis Tower, Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

St Francis Tower, Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

“They [the team of workers] started removing a couple of panels from the lower levels, to see what they were in for,” he said.

“This was while they were waiting for permission for the scaffolding crash deck – rather than wait and not have any cladding come off. They have now started taking off the cladding round the central elevation.”

Chiefs are also discussing potential options for the building’s future.

Mr Matthews added a ‘rockwool’ insulation system – marketed as being completely fireproof and made by spinning or drawing molten material – was one option being looked at.

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge - Credit: Rachel Edge

He said: “Over the coming weeks, surveyors, architects and planning control will be discussing the best options.”

Later this month, a meeting with leaseholders is planned to shed more light on their progress.

Letters were sent out informing everyone in the tower about the work last month.

An inquiry examining the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the fire at Grenfell Tower on June 14, 2017 is under way.

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge - Credit: Rachel Edge

The tragedy claimed the lives of 72 people.

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge - Credit: Rachel Edge

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge - Credit: Rachel Edge

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge - Credit: Rachel Edge

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge - Credit: Rachel Edge

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge - Credit: Rachel Edge

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge - Credit: Rachel Edge

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge

St Francis Tower's cladding removal. Photo: Rachel Edge - Credit: Rachel Edge