Update on steps by Sutton Council and partners to ensure safety in high-rise properties

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

Sutton Council continues to work extremely closely with its partners to ensure the safety of residents living in its high-rise properties.

Two Council-owned properties are fitted with cladding – Chaucer and Balaam Houses. The cladding is made of a different material than that reported to have been used at Grenfell Tower. The cladding specified at Chaucer House is mineral fibre based ACM (Aluminium Composite Material) and is in the lower risk category identified. Galvanised steel cladding was used at Balaam House. Vertical and horizontal fire breaks were incorporated into the design of these systems.  

We have provided full details on the types of cladding in use to the Department for Communities and Local Government. Although the cladding on Balaam and Chaucer Houses appears not to be the same as that used at Grenfell Tower, to assure ourselves of the safety of our cladding, samples are being taken and sent for testing. The results are expected next week.  

Sutton Housing Partnership (Sutton Council’s Arms Length Management Organisation) continues to reassure our residents at these properties and other Council owned high-rise blocks (six storeys and over). A newsletter and fact sheet providing further information have been distributed, urging residents to remain vigilant and familiarise themselves with established fire safety advice. SHP staff are also on site daily to reassure residents.

SHP is also speaking to residents to identify anyone, including family or regular visitors, who may require assistance in the event of an emergency evacuation of their homes.

SHP is commissioning independent experts to undertake a comprehensive review of fire safety in the eight blocks which are between six and 16 storeys, which will be carried out promptly. We do not intend to wait for the outcome of any inquiry or new Fire Building Regulations to trigger any works required as a result of this review.

Therefore, we will now be proceeding with an accelerated programme of fire alarm installation in communal areas, and intend to install a suitable sprinkler or similar fire suppression system at Balaam House, taking into account the recommendations of the fire safety review commissioned for this block.

The Chaucer House refurbishment project went considerably beyond the regulatory requirements and included the installation of fire alarms and the retrofit of a sprinkler system, one of the first in a residential tower in the UK.   

In addition to the work the SHP are undertaking, the London Fire Brigade has identified 242 residential properties in the borough which are four storeys or higher and is visiting them all to assess fire safety and offer advice. These inspections are on track to be completed within four weeks.

We will continue to update residents and reassure them at every opportunity that their safety is our number one priority.