Block of two high-rise residential flats in Northampton town centre deemed 'fire safety risks' - plans submitted to remove cladding

The issue is reminiscent of the Grenfell Tower tragedy where 72 people died due to a fire spreading quickly through the building

Friday, 26th November 2021, 11:57 pm
Updated Saturday, 27th November 2021, 12:10 am

Plans have been submitted to remove cladding and combustible materials from two 12-storey blocks of residential flats in Northampton deemed a 'fire safety risk'.

PA Housing has submitted proposals to West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) this week to complete 'essential' fire safety work on the Newlife Apartment buildings in Northampton town centre.

An investigation into the building found 'products that do not meet the required standard in terms of fire safety', according to the plans. However, if approved, the work to fix the buildings would start in April 2022, according to PA Housing.

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Newlife Apartments in Crispin Street have been deemed a 'fire safety risk'

Planning papers say: "The proposed remedial works have been prepared on the basis of site investigations, which have concluded that the current building poses fire safety risks. The proposals are required in order to comply with building regulations.

"The works are [also] required to enhance the fire performance of the existing external cladding walls."

The works would include removing the existing render cladding to 'enable the removal and replacement of combustible materials within the external walls'.

The works will also include the installation of A1 fire-rate insulation 'where it is missing', according to the plans.

The appearance of the building would remain the same, the applicant added.

A WNC spokesman said: “The planning application is currently going through our usual application process and will be determined as soon as all these stages are complete, at a future date yet to be confirmed.”

PA Housing response

Charles Ellis, Assistant Director of Asset Management and Compliancy at PA Housing, said: "We are working with a contractor to prepare and, subject to receiving the planning and building regulation approvals, we intend to start works by April 2022.

"We are taking a number of steps to ensure the buildings are safe for residents to live in, while we move quickly to ensure the necessary fire safety work is undertaken.

"We have kept residents informed throughout. Also, no residents will face additional charges – PA Housing will cover the costs of all fire safety works to all homes in the buildings.

“As part of our programme of safety checks of all our tall buildings following the Grenfell Tower fire, we have carried out intrusive surveys by fire experts of the external walls at the Newlife Apartments to check the materials used and how they have been installed. These investigations showed that the installation and workmanship is of a high standard.

“However, two aspects of the property require attention: replacing the light grey rendered sections and installing cavity barriers behind some of the glazed panels. Work to fix both these issues will be carried out at the same time.

“In the meantime, in order to increase resident safety we have carried out additional fire safety works. We have installed a new fire alarm system in the shared area and in residents’ properties. We have also carried out fire stopping works throughout the buildings to further protect the escape routes.

"In addition, we are carrying out weekly inspections of both buildings and removing any items left in shared areas as soon as we see them.

“We have written to all residents regularly to keep them updated since these issues were identified last year. We have also liaised closely with Northampton Fire and Rescue Service about our remediation plans and the additional works we’ve undertaken.

“We have engaged specialist remediation architects who have designed a new wall system to replace the light grey render façade, but this work will require planning approval before we can start, and we have submitted that planning application."

Northampton Fire and Rescue Service have also been contacted for comment.

In 2016, 72 people died in a major fire at Grenfell Tower in London, a residential block of flats.

The fire started by a malfunctioning fridge-freezer on the fourth floor and spread rapidly up the building's exterior, bringing fire and smoke to all the residential floors.

As per the BBC, in his report to the public inquiry, Professor Luke Bisby said evidence 'strongly supports' the theory that material in the cladding was the primary cause of the fire's spread.