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HomeHousingCouncil to carry out ‘intrusive’ fire safety checks on high rises

Council to carry out ‘intrusive’ fire safety checks on high rises

Southwark Council has said it will conduct “extra intrusive” fire safety checks in high-rises across the borough, starting with Andoversford Court in Peckham.

Surveys will look at the outside of the building and communal areas, while the council will “enter homes with a camera” to capture details for their 3D models and “may need to open up walls and ceilings.”

The move comes in preparation for the government’s new Build Safety Bill and 2021 Fire Safety Act, which will make owners responsible for the fire safety of their building’s structure, external walls, and common parts.

In a statement, Southwark Council said the checks would “take around 30 to 45 minutes, and while it is intrusive for residents, all GDPR and privacy requirements will be followed.

“It may prove unnecessary to do [so] for other blocks or estates, but this testing phase will help in understanding its relevance,” they continued.

Only some residents will be asked by the council to allow access to their homes.

The council has said the inspections are necessary “to test how the authority can respond, and look to find and iron out any practical issues with legislation change.”

“This makes headway to a smooth transition into new ways of working, and creates the least impact for residents when change happens.”

Southwark Council is one of the largest landlords in the country, with buildings spanning many decades. Each high-rise has unique and bespoke safety requirements.

The authority says it has a “good understanding” of the fire risks for all of the 170 tower blocks in the borough. “It is therefore unlikely that survey findings will highlight urgent safety actions.” However, the council is committed to acting on significant findings,” a spokesperson added.

Southwark Council is starting with Andoversford Court in Peckham because it has eight floors and specific features, such as a maisonette layout, external surfaces and infill panels, which will help them understand other buildings.

Cllr Stephanie Cryan, cabinet member for council homes and homelessness, said: “I want to thank the TMO and residents of Andoversford so much for their willingness to help us test the fire safety requirements we need to in advance of the new laws. Only with their help can we quickly carry out the inspections. I hope others in estates on the programme understand the importance of this work in keeping them safe.

“I know that it is inconvenient for people, and an expensive investment for the council, but people’s safety is our highest priority and we have to go as far as we can with this,” she added.

Residents will be contacted separately about any checks in homes within the block.

Fire safety has been an important public safety issue across the UK since the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people. And in 2009, the Lakanal House fire in Camberwell killed six people, including three young children.

“Southwark Council has gone over and above what was required to make its buildings safe – including carrying out intrusive fire safety surveys on high rise buildings,” said the council.

“The Grenfell disaster in 2017 sadly proved that the UK still has far to go in making sure that buildings are safe and sound should a fire happen,” the spokesperson added.

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