Confusion is currently permeating all attempts at tower block fire safety in Salford, with different housing associations practicing differing responses to the aluminium cladding crisis.
The Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has issued a statement to the Salford Star, basically advising companies to remove, not only the aluminium panels but also the insulation attached to the exterior of buildings, unless they are satisfied that it's fire safe...
"Following the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Towel in London, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) has received a number of inquiries to provide guidance around the removal of cladding which contains aluminium compound material weather shield panels in high-rise residential properties" a spokesperson says
"Specifically, advice has been sought as to whether the entire system, including insulation, should be removed or if it is sufficient to remove weather shield panels alone" they add "A number of housing providers have removed the weather shield panels from residential high-rise premises as a precautionary measure following a review of their fire risk assessment.
"Where housing providers have decided to remove the weather shield panels only but leave the insulation in place, they must be satisfied it is non-combustible material, or that it will not provide a medium for fire spread" they explain "Where providers are unable to confirm the fire performance of the insulation, we recommend that the entire system should be removed, including insulation.
"It is strongly recommended that any housing provider that has removed the weather shield panels only should assess the remaining insulation to ensure it is not a fire hazard or remove it" the Fire Service concludes "Regardless of what action is taken, the fire risk assessment must take these matters into account and be updated accordingly."
City West, which the Salford Star now believes has twelve blocks that have failed the Government's fire test*, has decided to suspend all removal of cladding...
"The advice around ACM panels and cladding systems is now somewhat unclear and until this is clarified we have taken the decision to suspend the removal of affected ACM cladding" the company states on its website "We will not be starting the removal on any further blocks.
"This will remain the case until we have clearer guidance on the kinds of panels we can use as a replacement and we are certain that removing the affected panels is the best and safest option" it adds.
Meanwhile, Pendleton Together has also updated its website, with a new 'fact sheet' for residents...
"Work has now started on the blocks to remove the cladding panels" it states "Work is being overseen by an independent expert on fire safety, Trident BC. In the first instance we will be removing cladding as far up as it is safe to do so. As soon as we have a timescale of works confirmed with our contractors we will provide residents with further information...
"...Sourcing replacement materials and working up a plan for remedial works to the external elevations of the block is underway" it adds "...Trident BC has been undertaking inspections in a number of flats. As a result of their findings we will be considering whether works are required internally to improve safety further."
In the meantime, Pendleton Together has put in place "a range of additional fire safety measures "including the 24/7 fire marshal patrols and we are in the process of carrying out a range of additional checks within flats and the blocks".
The other Salford housing association, Salix Homes, is stating nothing publicly, while Salford City Council has also issued no new statements.
* In the previous Salford Star article showing that Salford has the most fire safety failed blocks in the country, the Government stated that 29 of the city's blocks had failed, yet the Salford Star could only account for 24, including seven blocks owned by City West...
The Star added that "The Government was testing five blocks in City West's Barton Village, including Engels House and Enfield House, but the results have not been relayed to tenants yet".
In today's statement, City West notes that "In the last week the fire service have visited all 12 high rise blocks in Eccles and carried out detailed inspections in order to attain assurance about the fire safety arrangements on all 12 blocks and the measures we have in place..."
This assumes that the five Barton Village blocks have also failed the fire safety test – for a full background see previous Salford Star article and follow the links – click here