- Landlords urged to send cladding for testing amid fears other buildings are vulnerable to a Grenfell-style blaze.
- Department for Communities and Local Government admits “much public concern” about the issue.
- Laboratory working “24/7” to test potentially combustible material.
LONDON — The government has offered free cladding testing to landlords in a desperate effort to identify potentially dangerous buildings following the Grenfell Tower disaster.
The government has already identified 600 social housing buildings fitted with what Prime Minister Theresa May described as “combustible” cladding, similar to that attached to Grenfell, in west London.
Fire experts believe the aluminium composite material (ACM) may have exacerbated last week’s catastrophic blaze, which killed at least 79 people and left many more homeless.
Local authorities were ordered to send in cladding for testing earlier this week. Now, private sector high-rise building owners, managers, and landlords are being urged to do the same.
Melanie Dawes, the permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), has written to housing groups and representative bodies to call for action.
“There has been much public concern and comment about potential flaws in the cladding that was on Grenfell Tower,” she said in the letter, which has been published on the DCLG website.
“We have asked local authorities and social housing providers to identify whether any panels used in new build or refurbishment of their own housing stock are a particular type of cladding made of ACM.
“These checks will be relevant to privately owned and managed residential buildings too, so please can you consider carrying out these checks on your buildings.”
Cladding testing laboratory working “24/7”
Buildings over six storeys, or 18 metres, high are being prioritised. Landlords need to submit two, 250 x 250mm samples of the cladding from their buildings. Tests are being carried out by the Building Research Establishment, which works for the DCLG on fire investigations.
A DCLG spokeswoman said the Building Research Establishment laboratory is working “24/7” to turn around cladding tests amid fears other high-rise developments could be vulnerable to a Grenfell-style blaze. She was unable to comment on how much the free testing initiative will cost.
Earlier on Thursday, Downing Street said it was “too early to say” how many social housing residents are likely to be living in unsafe towers after 600 were found to have flammable cladding. The PM’s spokesperson said it would be “irresponsible” to name which buildings are affected until all residents have been informed.
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