More than one hundred residents STILL living in 'fire risk' high-rise flat blocks in Northampton town centre

It has been a year since plans were submitted to make the buildings safe… and nothing has yet been done
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More than 100 residents are STILL living in “fire safety risk” high-rise flat blocks in Northampton town centre.

In November 2021, PA Housing submitted plans to remove cladding and combustible materials from the two Newlife Apartments in Crispin Street, where there are 140 properties.

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An investigation into the buildings found “products that do not meet the required standard in terms of fire safety”, according to planning papers from November 2021.

The Newlife Apartment tower blocks in Crispin StreetThe Newlife Apartment tower blocks in Crispin Street
The Newlife Apartment tower blocks in Crispin Street

PA Housing said back in November 2021 that the safety works were supposed to happen in April 2022, but the work has not yet been completed.

Charles Ellis, assistant director of asset management and compliancy at PA Housing, explained why little progress has been made.

He said: "We have been working hard to get the required work undertaken at the Newlife Apartments and have kept in regular contact with residents on progress. We had hoped to start on site earlier this year, but unfortunately that did not prove possible due to delays in finalising the project specification.

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Planning permission has now been granted and we are in the final stages of appointing a contractor.”

Mr Ellis said he has met with residents to tell them work is planned to start in April 2023.

Mr Ellis said: "We realise how frustrating this situation is for our customers and are sorry that it has not been possible to make faster progress, despite our best efforts.”

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

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

Mr Ellis added that resident safety is a priority and that several steps have been taken to ensure the buildings remain safe for them to live in until remedial works can be completed.

"This includes installing 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," he said.

“No residents will face additional charges – PA Housing is covering the costs of all fire safety works to all Newlife homes.”

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The issue is reminiscent of the Grenfell Tower tragedy where 72 people died in June 2017 due to a fire spreading quickly through the building.

A public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower tragedy has been working its way through evidence since 2018.

According to BBC News, there was evidence about the first flames, which emerged from a fridge in a fourth floor flat - and their rapid spread up and through the flammable cladding panels, window frames and insulation which had been installed on its outside walls the previous year in a £10m refurbishment scheme.