Managing companies of Northampton's high-rise buildings speak out to allay fears over cladding

High-rise residents in Northampton are concerned the cladding on their flats could be a fire hazard following the Grenfell Tower fire.

Tuesday, 27th June 2017, 5:56 pm
Updated Thursday, 31st August 2017, 3:13 pm
The Chronicle & Echo approached the organisations behind several of Northampton's cladded buildings to ask about their fire safety.

They are calling on management companies to reassure them of their fire safety regulations and send samples away for testing.

It comes as the Prime Minister yesterday (June 27) called for a "major national investigation" into the use of cladding on high-rise towers, after initial tests found dozens of flats in England were using flammable cladding.

At least 79 people are feared to have been killed in the blaze on June 14. It is believed the spread of the fire was aided by flammable cladding on the high-rise tower block.

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A flat fire broke out at the New Life Building 2 in January.

Now, the Chronicle & Echo has contacted the organisations behind Northampton's cladded and high-rise buildings to ask if they would be carrying out any tests.

The New Life Building 2, one of two flat blocks in Lower Cross Street, was evacuated in January after a major fire on the fifth floor.

A spokesman for PA Housing, which owns both of the 12-storey apartment blocks, said: "Both of our towers were fully refurbished in 2006 and have brick slip and render cladding, which is not flammable in any way. The insulation used is rock wool, which is not flammable and is designed to prevent the spread of fire.

"We have no plans [to install sprinkers] at the moment but we will continue to review the situation in line with legislation and fire safety guidance.

A fire broke out on the fifth floor of the New Life Building 2 in January.

"We operate a stay-in-the-flat policy. We would like to emphasise that the building is designed to contain a fire in the flat where it starts. It will usually be safe for customers to stay in their own apartments if the fire is elsewhere."

St Katherines Court, a nine-storey flat block in St Katherine's Street, was recladded in March as part of a major facelift by managing company Northampton Partnership Homes.

A spokesman said: "We have checked with our contractors and suppliers and have confirmed that the cladding being installed at St Katherines Court is not the same as at Grenfell Tower.

"The cladding is a layered composite enamel that is deemed a non-risk product and is not required to be submitted for testing.

St Katherine's Court was recladded in March.

Following pressure from residents and opposition groups in the borough council, Northampton Partnership Homes also announced this week they would be installing sprinklers in St Katherines Court's communal areas and near fire exits.

St John's Hall, a University of Northampton student accommodation block in St john's Street, was opened in 2014 and features over 460 student bedrooms.

A spokesman for the University of Northampton said: "We have been in contact with the contractors who built the halls. If necessary, we will test the cladding.

"We should stress the situation at St John’s is completely different from that at Grenfell Tower, in that St john's is a low-rise building and that our fire escape policy is for an entire core to be evacuated.

The St John's Hall of Residence student accommodation block.

"It is extremely unlikely that we would see the type of flame spread at Grenfell Tower on St John’s due to the large areas of masonry present.

"We will review the outcome of the Grenfell Tower investigation and make any necessary amendments to our procedures should these prove necessary."

Premier Inns came forward after the tragedy to say it was "extremely concerned" about three of its hotels in England that could be using similar cladding to Grenfell's.

A spokesman from Premier Inns, who has five hotels in Northampton, said: "“We can confirm that the cladding on these hotels is not the same as the cladding used on Grenfell Tower.

"The safety and security of our guests and team members is our number one priority. We have been assured by an independent fire expert that all our hotels are safe to operate."

All three Northampton College campus buildings, including one in Booth Lane, one in Lower Mounts and one in Daventry, are finished with cladding.

Northampton town centre's Premier Inn.

A spokeswoman for Northampton College said: "All cladding at Northampton College sites in Booth Lane, Lower Mounts and Daventry is fully compliant with fire regulations and health and safety standards."

The BBC reported that 95 towers in 32 local authority areas in England have so far failed fire safety tests, with all of the samples submitted after the Grenfell Tower fire.

Northampton College in Booth Lane.
A flat fire broke out at the New Life Building 2 in January.
A fire broke out on the fifth floor of the New Life Building 2 in January.
St Katherine's Court was recladded in March.
The St John's Hall of Residence student accommodation block.
Northampton town centre's Premier Inn.
Northampton College in Booth Lane.