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Statement on testing of cladding samples

Cllr Jayne McCoy, Chair of the Housing, Economy and Business Committee at Sutton Council, said:

On Monday 26th June cladding samples were taken from Chaucer and Balaam Houses and sent for testing with the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) approved organisation, the Building Research Establishment (BRE). The removal of the samples was overseen by representatives from Sutton Council, Sutton Housing Partnership (SHP) and the London Fire Brigade (LFB).

On Monday night we were informed of the results which revealed that the cladding on Chaucer House had failed the test. This is in common with all of the blocks that have been tested to date across the UK. Results are categorised between 1 (being the best) and 3 (being the worst). The cladding at Chaucer House was placed in Category 2.

We were also informed BRE will not be able to test the cladding on Balaam House. The cladding at Balaam House is made of galvanised steel and BRE has been instructed by the Government not to test steel clad buildings at the present time. The cladding at Chaucer House is mineral fibre based ACM (Aluminium Composite Material). We want to test the Balaam House cladding and therefore will be working with specialists to ensure that a test appropriate to this cladding system is undertaken (once BRE provides the testing specification details).

SHP has commissioned a comprehensive independent technical review of fire safety in Chaucer House which is commencing this week and anticipate that a preliminary report will be available in five weeks time with an assessment of fire security of the building, including the cladding.

Both Balaam and Chaucer House have received three visits from LFB with a fourth scheduled this week. The fire safety measures in place at both buildings satisfy SHP, LFB and the council that residents remain safe in their homes.

In the meantime, the safety of our residents continues to be our number one priority. We have communicated the results of the test to residents in the block and have invited them to attend  drop-in sessions this week with SHP, the Fire Brigade and Council Officers, at both Chaucer and Balaam Houses in order to answer questions face to face.

We are also introducing fire safety patrols with staff undertaking a 24 hour, seven days a week patrol at both Chaucer and Balaam Houses.

Sutton Housing Partnership, the Council and the Fire Brigade have assessed the fire safety arrangements in place at Balaam and Chaucer Houses and we continue to follow the advice from all authorities involved. Should that advice change, or if we consider there to be any risk, we will take any action deemed necessary to ensure residents’ safety.

There are already a full range of safety measures in place. Chaucer House has a communal fire alarm and a sprinkler in each room of every flat. All flats have hard-wired smoke alarms in each room and a hard-wired heat detector in the  kitchen. Both Balaam and Chaucer House have fire safety doors fitted to each property and in communal areas.

Elsewhere in the UK, a small number of high-rise blocks have been required to evacuate after failing cladding tests. There were large numbers of fire safety deficiencies in those blocks and none of these problems are present at Chaucer or Balaam Houses so evacuation is not required.

Other action we have taken:

  • SHP received an up-to-date fire risk assessment for both Balaam and Chaucer House since the Grenfell fire produced by an independent specialist. All recommendations are being addressed.
  • The Fire Brigade are conducting regular audits and inspections of Chaucer and Balaam House
  • The Sutton and Merton Fire Brigades will be visiting Chaucer and Balaam House to familiarise themselves with the specific fire safety procedures and layout; and to offer enhanced fire brigade presence.
  • SHP staff will continue to visit Chaucer and Balaam House every day to offer advice and reassurance. We will listen and respond to any concerns about fire safety.
  • SHP will be visiting every home to speak with residents personally and provide and talk through the latest fire safety advice and to arrange a Home fire Safety Visit from the fire brigade.
  • SHP will also carry out an internal landlord inspection to check landlord fittings such as internal fire doors.
  • We will be encouraging residents to have home appliance testing carried out so they are assured that these do not present a fire risk. SHP can arrange this on residents behalf.