Since the horrific fire which took place at Grenfell Tower in London, I have had many constituents contact me with understandable concerns and questions about their own safety and that of their neighbours. I have subsequently contacted Glasgow City Council and every housing association which have properties within Glasgow North West, seeking clarification on a number of fire safety issues.
As you may be aware, Scottish Building Standards are devolved, and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service works closely with local authorities and housing associations to ensure the safety of occupants in high rise buildings. Following the events at Grenfell, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Communities established a Ministerial working group on building and fire safety to take any actions necessary as we learn lessons from this catastrophic fire. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will continue to carry out additional operational assurance visits to high-rise buildings in Scotland, and since the Grenfell Tower fire, over 200 visits have been carried out by the SFRS to residents in high-rise buildings.
I am grateful for the responses I have received, and wish to provide you with a brief outline of what I have been told below:
Glasgow City Council
Writing to Chief Executive Annemarie O’Donnell, I have been told that Glasgow City Council have done a lot of work with Housing Associations to complete a risk based assessment as a matter of priority.
Head of Housing and Regeneration Patrick Flynn provided me with a further update:
“As you know, the City Council has been working closely with the Scottish Government since the tragedy at Grenfell Tower in London and, as strategic housing authority for Glasgow, we are in the process of liaising with all Housing Associations across the city on this issue.
As a first step, we were asked by the Scottish Government to check the materials of all External Wall Insulation (EWI) on multi-storey flats (MSFs) in Glasgow were not of the system installed at Grenfell Tower – Aluminium Composite Material (ACM). Housing Associations have confirmed that none of their multi-storey stock has been clad using the same system as was installed at Grenfell Tower. We have been informed by all the Associations that own MSFs in Glasgow that any cladding used on their blocks of flats has met building regulations.
This has been reported back to the Scottish Government.
We were also asked by the Scottish Government to identify all properties in the City which were over 18m tall, their construction type, whether external wall insulation had been installed, its type, whether sprinkler systems had been installed and also whether there were any district heating systems installed. This has also been reported back to the Scottish Government.
We are now in the process of undertaking a survey of all Housing Associations who own multi-storey stock in the City to ask them further questions on their properties, including their fire safety measures and procedures, as we do not currently hold this information. Once completed, we will be happy to share our findings with you.”
Glasgow Housing Association/Cube Housing Association
Having written to the Wheatley Group, which encompasses Glasgow Housing Association and Cube Housing Association among others, I have been assured that the materials used in their properties are different from the cladding system which was in place in Grenfell Tower and is manufactured with non-combustible materials designed to restrict the spread of fire.
As part of their fire safety regime, fire stopping measures have been installed in their multi-storeys as well as sprinklers in many of the bin store areas. I understand that they have a programme in place to extend this to all properties. There are also daily patrols with local staff identifying health and safety issues.
The Wheatley Group will be setting up a helpline for anyone who wants extra reassurance and, if any tenants are particularly concerned, they are invited to contact them to arrange a visit with a housing officer or a home fire safety visit in partnership with Scottish Fire and Rescue.
You can read my further comments here.
Yoker Housing Association
Yoker Housing Association have confirmed that they own no high or mini multi-storey properties and our tenement buildings are not classified as high rise buildings. They have installed external wall insulation to some tenements within their ownership. This has been restricted to the rear elevation and the specification bares no similarity to that used at Grenfell Tower.
They have obtained assurances from the project manager that the specification of the system installed by the Association poses minimal risk to residents and as such does not require any further action by the Association. They have also met with the manufacturers and installers of the external insulation and obtained additional assurances from them concerning the fire resistance of the materials used. This meeting also involved representatives from Glasgow City Council who were equally satisfied with the evidence of fire resistance presented.
Whiteinch and Scotstoun Housing Association
Whiteinch and Scotstoun Housing Association has one multi storey block of flats at 64 Curle Street. The building, comprising 120 flats, acquired the flats by a stock transfer from Glasgow Housing Association(GHA) in 2011. Constructed in 1971, the block was previously refurbished in 2007/08 by GHA, prior to this stock transfer.
The building was over clad during the refurbishment and is not similar to the cladding system used on Grenfell. The system installed is Permarock Mineral Fibre External Wall insulation with an Acrylic K 1.5mm render finish. The insulation is rated as class A1 which is considered to be non-combustible and the surface has the highest Class O fire rating to prevent the spread of flame.
The hi-rise building is similar to others built at the same time in the City and has fire doors with smoke and intumescent seals fitted to all 120 flats as well as fire doors to protected routes on each floor and the staircase. Each flat is fitted with a heat detector in the kitchen and a smoke alarm in the living room and hall. The building is equipped with a dry riser that provides water to each floor for firefighting purposes and is fully compartmented to prevent the spread of fire from one flat to another.
In the event of fire, residents are advised to remain within their flats unless they are being directly affected by fire or smoke and it is considered unsafe to remain in their flat. Otherwise, fire fighters in attendance at any event will advise and direct residents, accordingly.
Full fire risk assessment inspections are carried out every two to three years depending on the report recommendations or if there have been any material changes made within the block that could affect fire safety. The latest fire risk assessment was carried out on the 10th July 2017 and this will determine an action plan and the cycle for the next assessment review.
The Association has written to every tenant within Curle Street to advise them of the above and to give reassurance that the block is considered to be safe.
It is worth pointing out that Curle Street was subject to a major fire incident in 2008, which totally destroyed a flat on the 11th floor. Although a major blaze, the fire was contained within the flat with minimal damage out-with the flat and the fire service commented at the time that the building did its job in containing the fire to a single flat. The fire service also singled out the standard of the flat door, which played a major part in containing the fire within the flat and preventing the spread of fire to other flats.
As with other Registered Social Landlords in Scotland, this Association will now await the shorter and longer-term lessons to be drawn from Grenfell tragedy and will act upon guidance and instruction from the Scottish and Westminster Governments.
Drumchapel Housing Co-Operative
Drumchapel Housing Co-operative does not own any high rise properties and the Co-operative manages all of its own stock with the exception of a small supported accommodation unit. None of their properties have external cladding systems. All properties have hard wired smoke alarms and appropriate fire doors, and they liaise with Scottish Fire and Rescue to progress fire safety visits for vulnerable tenants.
They have said that they carry out weekly inspections of their properties and environments to reduce the risk of fire by ensuring that: properties are secure, there are no combustible items within common areas or in close proximity to buildings, escape routes are clear of obstacles and obstructions that could impede evacuation in the event of fire. Additionally, they provide regular guidance to tenants in relation to fire safety via newsletters, taking account of publications from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
Similar to the majority of organisations, in light of the recent tragedy they plan to review our existing arrangements for fire safety, taking account of and implementing any recommendations that arise.
Kingsridge Cleddans Housing Association
Kingsridge Cleddans Housing Association have advised that the majority of their housing stock are two-storey new build properties constructed from 1993-2005, none of which have external cladding. All properties are fitted with hard wired smoke alarms with battery backup, which are checked and serviced annually. Fire doors are fitted in all tenement properties which also benefit from controlled entry door systems. Following Grenfell, they have carried out an assessment of their housing stock and a review of fire safety procedures – residents have been notified of this via a letter and a fire safety information leaflet.
Cernach Housing Association
Cernach Housing Association have advised me that they are in the process of carrying out a fire risk assessment across all of their stock and this will be reported to the Management Committee at the end of September.
The assessment will not only look at the materials used in construction/renovation, but also escape routes and warning systems. The results of this will be communicated to all residents, and they are intending to write to all tenants who live in tenemental or terraced houses that have either cladding or render fitted, which will hopefully provide reassurance in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy.
They have prioritised looking at cladding/insulation render systems used in the tenements and some of the three-storey five-apartment properties. While this is yet to be completed, so far they have found none of the materials highlighted as potentially problematic at Grenfell. They have said it is highly unlikely that the remainder of their investigations on the materials used will highlight any concerns.
West of Scotland Housing Association
The cladding used by West of Scotland Housing Association is fully compliant with Scottish Building Regulations and is not the same as that used at Greenfell Tower
Fire safety measures include provision of smoke and CO detectors (where there are gas appliances) in individual dwellings. In communal areas, they have a full range of fire safety equipment depending on the type of property. Their sheltered housing will have 24/7 monitoring for fire detection. Communal areas of mainstream flats will have fire doors and more recent dwellings will have louvre openers for diffusing smoke. Their two sheltered sites in North West, Beil Drive and Bulldale both have sprinkler systems. They have no current proposals to retro fit sprinklers elsewhere in Glasgow North West.
Additionally, they carry out safety checks on a weekly or monthly cycle depending on risk assessments and equipment to be checked, and their Health and Safety Committee keeps their Fire Safety Policy and Procedures under constant review.
Link Housing Association
Following the events in London, they have reviewed their stock and did not identify any properties with cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower.
Across Glasgow, Link’s stock ranges in construction dates from early 1980 to present, and they undertake ongoing replacement of property components as part of their planned preventative maintenance programme. Link undertake a range of fire safety measures from regular neighbourhood inspection, regular checks, inspection and testing of fire detection and alarm equipment, emergency lighting, fire extinguishers etc.
Link has written to all tenants providing fire safety advice, based on Fire Scotland’s advice, and fire assessment checks are carried out every year.
Bield Housing Association
Bield Housing Association’s properties range between 1 and 7 floors high (the majority are between 1 and 4 floors high) but none are more than 18 metres to the top level.
They also have no properties with external cladding in the Glasgow areas. (Where they do have cladding on 3 properties, elsewhere in Scotland, this is not the same as the Grenfell Tower cladding and meets all Scottish Building Control requirements for fire safety.)