- Meeting of Environment and Living Scrutiny Committee, Tuesday 19th December 2017 6.30 pm (Item 3.)
To consider the attached report.
Contact Officers: Khyati Vaughan (01296) 585881 / Will Rysdale (01296) 585561
On 20 September 2017, Members had received a report which updated on AVDC’s response to the Grenfell Tower disaster which outlined actions taken by AVDC to mitigate the risk of any similar disaster occurring in the Vale. After Members discussed the report, it was then agreed that the Committee would be updated accordingly.
Since then DCLG had written to all local authorities on 18 October 2017 requesting information about privately owned residential buildings taller than 18 meters and with external cladding. AVDC responded via an online questionnaire within the requested lead time. DCLG had also advised that local authorities had enforcement powers relating to Health and Safety Rating System in relation to external cladding of tall residential buildings in their interpretation of the Housing Act 2004.
Friars House, also known as Great Western Street, was the only residential building over 18 meters tall in the district that was fitted with ACM cladding. DCLG’s recommended action was to carry out additional testing on the insulation at Friars House in order to ascertain whether or not further action was necessary. Liaison was ongoing between Officers, the management company, building owners, VAHT and DCLG in this regard in addition to ensuring adherence to the most up to date advice and guidance. The responsible private sector party had refused to action any further work despite representation from AVDC and DCLG. Enforcement options were being considered by Officers in partnership with DCLG.
Numerous Freedom of Information requests had been received and responded to accordingly which had mainly originated from the Press and focused on social housing. It was felt that AVDC had not been targeted specifically in these FOIs but rather that the request had been sent en masse to Local Authorities across the UK. The requests had since tapered off.
Upon delivery of the update, Members asked further questions and were advised the following:-
i. The Fire Service inspections took various aspects of building in to account but they were mostly internal factors such as fire doors. The Health and Safety Rating System was a prescribed test that produced a Category score whereby non-compliance was then actioned. It was difficult to challenge this scoring system.
ii. Cladding sampling and testing would be difficult without cooperation from the management company.
iii. There was the possibility of commercialising the knowledge gained by Officers in order to sell their experience to other Authorities but the main priority was the resolution of outstanding issues.
iv. Lessons learnt were not eligible for building design as these were bound by national guidance and any deviation would be subject to challenge by developers. It was expected that national guidance would change over time.
v. If remedial works were required then it was not expected that residents would need to be rehoused whilst the work was undertaken.
Members were assured that this work had the full attention of Officers at all levels in the Authority and that the safety of residents was their priority.
That the update in the report be noted and a further update come to Committee when it is ready.