I have been contacted by many constituents following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, North Kensington last Wednesday.
Many who have contacted me live in tower blocks across the local area, and are concerned at the safety and security of their own buildings. I, alongside local councillors, have been in touch with various housing stakeholders across Erith and Thamesmead to see what action, if any, is being taken to re-assess fire risk and to communicate with residents in tower blocks.
Greenwich Council have provided reassurances that fire safety is of the highest priority and that the Housing Service has a framework in place for management of fire safety, was comprehensively reviewed following the Lakanal Tower fire in Southwark. All the 93 high rise blocks across Greenwich are fire risk assessed annually, and the council are carrying out additional checks on the cladding materials used for external wall insulation on eleven of their high rise blocks.
Bexley Council have published a statement noting that although they do not own or manage any high rise tower blocks, they have contacted all of the main housing providers in the borough to ensure that they are all complying with the relevant fire safety requirements. They have also joined a pan-London team working with the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea offering the services of trained Council staff to work at a rest centre in the area.
I note that Peabody have issued a statement and are writing to residents in tower blocks including details of extra inspections, how residents can stay safe in their homes, re-confirming what to do in case of fire, and to confirm that they are reviewing proposals to clad the outside of existing tower blocks in Thamesmead. Detailed questions have also been raised regarding the design of the towers in Thamesmead and I await full responses to those questions.
Orbit have provided reassurances that all of their maintained blocks have up to date fire risk assessments in place and have visited the 10 high rise blocks they maintain in Bexley to give reassurance to residents.
My thoughts remain with all those affected by the fire in West London last week, and I pay tribute to the emergency services who responded with such courage and professionalism. I am pleased that the Prime Minister has now decided to hold a full and independent public inquiry into the fire, and I look forward to the publication of its terms of reference and to reviewing its final recommendations.
In recent years in Parliament I have been a member of the All Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group, and have proposed amendments to legislation to ensure that fire safety is integral to all building and housing. In April 2016 I contacted the Minister regarding the outstanding review of Building Regulations Approved Document B which covers fire safety and was told that they would make an announcement of their plans in due course. Sadly no announcement has come forward. I will continue to pressure Ministers to urgently come forward with plans to ensure that building works are done to the highest possible standard and with concern for everybody’s safety at their heart.
If you live in a tower block and have concerns about your block, please do contact me and I will raise your concerns with the relevant local authority or housing association.