Grenfell Tower fire prompts key questions for Brighton and Hove council

Posted On 17 Jun 2017 at 5:44 pm

The Grenfell Tower fire has prompted councillors and tenants to ask vital questions about local blocks of flats as high-rise residents seek reassurances from Brighton and Hove City Council.

The council owns more than 40 tower blocks of which about 20 have some sort of cladding. There have been at least three notable fires in the past three years, with one death.

Grenfell Tower fire by Natalie Oxford from Creative Commons

Questions are being asked about the nature of the cladding used locally because, in the fatal Grenfell Tower fire on Wednesday (14 June), it appeared to accelerate the spread of the blaze.

It is among the factors that prompted the Police and Fire Minister Nick Hurd to order checks to be carried out by local authorities around the country.

Meetings have taken place involving Brighton and Hove City Council officials and employees of East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.

And the council has written to all tower block tenants after carrying out a review of its stock.

One tenant, Steve Parry, was dismissive, though, saying: “A letter has, in theory, been delivered to all residents of council-owned property today.

“I have yet to meet anyone who has received this letter where I live.

“For those who have not received it, please do not worry. It says nothing useful and appears to be purely an attempt to avoid responsibility for what will be seen as fraud, profiteering and ruthless plundering of public money.

“It is the beginning of a massive denial of responsibility.”

Cladding was proposed for flats in Clarendon Road, Hove, but the plans were turned down by councillors

Valerie Paynter, of the campaign group Save Hove, touched on proposals to clad tower blocks near Hove Station which were turned down by the council’s Planning Committee.

She asked: “Was the London cladding the same as was proposed in Hove? Just nail polish thin render over foam? It certainly looks the same in media drawings but with added decorative detailing on top.”

So far the council has published almost no information. It prompted one resident to point to remarks by a Kensington councillor who said that when she asked safety questions about Grenfell Tower before the fire, she was treated as a nuisance.

Conservative former council leader Mary Mears has asked to see fire safety certificates for the council’s tower blocks – a request reiterated by Green members of the council’s Housing and New Homes Committee.

Councillor Mary Mears

Councillor Mears, who speaks on housing for the Conservatives, also spoke about the case for sprinkler systems, saying that money was available.

Sprinklers have been fitted at one block, Somerset Point, in Somerset Street, Brighton, and will be in the Brooke Mead extra care flats when they open this year.

Two other council blocks in Kemp Town are to have sprinklers fitted, St James’ House and Essex Place, where community activist Chris Cooke died in a fire last year.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, the Green group convenor, said last night (Friday 16 June): “We are asking questions about inspections, regulation of our own stock, audits and all of the measures taken by the city council and the fire and rescue service to avoid such horror – the so-called ‘red tape’ that the Conservative government has been adamant about cutting.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty

“Only this afternoon the government launched an urgent audit to find out details of the tower blocks councils and housing associations own because clearly they don’t even have this basic information.

“We back the call from the Chief Fire Officers’ Association for fire sprinklers to be fitted in all new-build homes, in all tower blocks and all care homes.”

Councillor David Gibson, who speaks on housing for the Greens, said: “It is awful to think that this may have happened because lessons from previous tragedies have not been heeded.

“The city council now must reassure residents by rigorous fire safety checking, by making comprehensive details of the materials used to clad their blocks publicly available and by developing an urgent plan to rectify any deficiencies identified or deficiencies emerging in the light of learning from the Kensington tragedy.

Councillor David Gibson

“The government must ensure more rigorous fire safety standards and inspection as a matter of law at the earliest opportunity.

“Instead of forcing councils to use tenants’ rents to subsidise the housing association ‘right to buy’, they need to make available the necessary resources as a matter of urgency to ensure councils can make all their tower blocks fire safe.”

On Thursday (15 June) the new Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, called for safety checks of every tower block to be carried out as quickly as possible.

The Grenfell Tower death toll appears to have risen to 58. The Metropolitan Police said that the total included 30 people who are known to have died and 28 believed to have been in the building but who have not been seen since.

 

  1. Cllr Warren Morgan Reply

    Councillor Mears led the council for three years. No sprinkler systems were fitted during that time.
    In the two years I have led the council, one block has had a system installed and two more are on the way.
    Under my leadership I am determined that council housing will be built – is being built – to the highest standards.
    It is Councillor Mears who has opposed and criticised the costs of that housing throughout.

    • Still Human Reply

      Where is the letter the fire services sent the Council regarding Bobby Carver’s flat which they called a death trap Mr Morgan? Ignoring issues does not magically make them disappear.

      • Daniel Harris Reply

        I want to know how often places in emergnecy accomodation are inspectived for fire safety.

        There have been a few fires in the last 12 months and there are concerns around providers not paying uk tax but claiming 20 million from tax payers. Contracts need to be ditched. Not banning activists like me. See you in court bhcc

  2. Rolivan Reply

    I find it apalling that Politicians are resorting to Point Scoring when so many people have lost their lives.Mistakes have been made over many Terms of Office.In the 60s when most of these Blocks were built how long a life did Councils across the land put on them.Surely it is time to rethink the Whole House Building procedure and if it means The Government borrowing money then so be it.Surely when it comes to infrastructure only the Best should do.We are supposed to be a Developed Country.It is also time to resort to the Australian model for Immigration.

  3. Thingy Reply

    ? How does adopting the Australian immigration model help prevent terrible disasters like Grenfell? Are you proposing immigrants be dipped in fire terardent or something. Oh, wait, you are point scoring by linking immigration to a completely unrelated fire disaster.

    • Rolivan Reply

      No I am not we are putting people in below standard housing and it would appear that about 250,000 people are coming into the country each year and we cannot House those already here Safely.We are even resorting to people living in converted containers.

  4. Neil Reply

    Rolivan. The Tories have blood on their hands. They’ve repeatedly called health and safety legislation “red tape” and voted down fire regs, safe for habitation, sprinkler system bills. Point scoring? Nah. This is the truth and you want people to shut up to protect your Tory friends.

    • Rolivan Reply

      I said Politicians not a particular Party they are all as bad as each other

    • Rolivan Reply

      I am not a Tory.

  5. Nils Visser Reply

    In the case of Bobby Carver, paralysed man housed in attic flat, fire services condemned that flat as death trap. Their letter to BHCC was conveniently lost. My letters to Warren Morgan about my concerns regarding Bobby have been conveniently ignored by Cclr Warren. They will pay lip service but neither Council nor Councillors care at all.

  6. saveHOVE Reply

    I’d like to see fire extinguishers in every high rise flat for eventualities (like exploding phones, igniting appliances – like the Grenfell fridge). It is right to put sprinklers in the very tall council blocks because aerial access by fire ladders does not go above 10 storeys.

    We have been lucky so far in this city. Quite bad fires have been contained within flats where they have happened.

    Please see website pinned blog on cladding for expert references of note worth consulting.

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