‘We’re in limbo’ – Pair want answers over future of cladding on Ipswich flats

The Ipaxis building in Wolsey Street, Ipswich Picture: ARCHANT

The Ipaxis building in Wolsey Street, Ipswich Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

People living in an Ipswich apartment block say they are in the dark over whether cladding which has failed a fire test will be removed.

The Ipaxis development in Ipswich. Picture: ARCHANT

The Ipaxis development in Ipswich. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Darren Prentice and Peter Cassidy rent a flat in the Ipaxis development in Wolsey Street, near Cineworld, and feel they are being “kept in the dark” about what is happening.

Last summer a sample from cladding on the upper two floors of the complex – which is five storeys high and not recognised as a ‘high rise’ – failed a fire safety test ordered after the Grenfell Tower disaster.

However, fire chiefs – who carried out inspections last summer and again this year – are confident of the building’s safety.

Paul Goodman of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said the premises is a relatively new build and has good all round access.

Paul Goodman of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service Picture: SUFFOLK FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE

Paul Goodman of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service Picture: SUFFOLK FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE - Credit: Archant

He also confirmed there is currently no Government requirement to remove the cladding, noting the complex is under 18m high and only has cladding on the top two floors.

Now Mr Prentice, who like many residents found out about the failed test via an article in this newspaper, has hit out at an apparent “lack of communication” by those in charge, adding: “We’re in complete limbo about the whole situation.

“We’ve had a total lack of updates about the cladding and still have no clue when anything will be done.

“All everyone keeps saying is that it’s a low fire risk.

Home from Home director Edward Ottley Picture: ARCHANT

Home from Home director Edward Ottley Picture: ARCHANT

“We can see action happening at St Francis Tower which is practically in our back garden, despite our test being done last summer.

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“It is worrying especially after Grenfell, we’re confident the block is safe but we’ve heard nothing about the cladding.”

Notices warning people against having barbecues went up this summer, Mr Prentice claims.

But he did say some improvements had been made, such as more fire checks and weekly fire alarm tests.

Edward Ottley, of Home from Home which manages the complex, has been in touch with the couple about their concerns.

But he noted that Mr Prentice and Mr Cassidy were tenants, and the company’s usual communication is with landlords and/or letting agents.

He said: “We are very happy with the fire safety at the building.

“It is low risk and we have endeavoured to keep owners informed, it’s a step by step process.

“We feel like we have done a fantastic job.”

He did not shed light on whether the cladding will be removed – the decision to take it down rests with those responsible for the building and its owners.

Mr Ottley also said an independent assessor awarded the building a ‘low fire risk’ status.

What was the outcome of the fire test and what has been done since?

Ipaxis is a five-floor residential building and is not nationally recognised as a high rise building.

It has aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding, which is similar to systems found on Grenfell, present on the top two floors.

An inspection was carried out on June 29, 2017, by SFRS protection, prevention, operational risk and local authority building control as part of the high rise project.

Less than a month later, on July 17, 2017, a full audit was carried out by SFRS protection inspecting officers following a failed test result of the cladding system by BRE.

Ipswich Borough Council building control, a fire risk assessor, property manager and the ‘responsible person’ (RP) – Home From Home Property Management Ltd – were present at this audit.

Its result was a ‘notification of deficiencies’, which indicated some works were required to comply with regulations. These have since been completed.

Building control did not require any further action at the time, but they remained in contact with Home From Home.

Fire chiefs provided high rise leaflets for people in the block to reassure them.

Since then SFRS bosses ordered a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) to be updated and a compartmentation report, setting out the structure of the building, to be completed.

The FRA has been completed by a fire engineer and it is understood the compartmentation report has concluded, but fire chiefs are waiting on a copy of this.

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