A report detailing the city’s response to fire safety following the Grenfell tower fire will be heard by the Council’s neighbourhood and environment scrutiny committee next week (Wednesday 2 September
Earlier this year, the Council was named an Early Adopter of the principles of the Hackitt Review into building safety (more information in notes to editors) and has since also signed the Building Safety Pledge, which requires fire safety works to be prioritised – particularly during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The Council is now urging building owners to complete all fire safety works as quickly as possible for the reassurance of residents – without transferring the cost of remediation on to leaseholders.
The Council has contacted the owners of over 200 private high rise properties (above 18m) to identify whether they have unsafe Grenfell-style cladding. Safety works were required at 12 buildings and interim safety measures remain in place at 49 properties.
Only two of the 12 private buildings have already completed necessary safety works, four have started but work has slowed due to Covid, and six are yet to start. The Council understands works are agreed for five, which leaves one building where the owners are yet to engage with the Council, three years after the Grenfell fire.
In February this year, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) also requested further information on the 200+ buildings and on all student halls and hotels. All 26 student hall premises in the city have returned the necessary information and only one hotel (out of 43) is yet to engage with the Council.
Responses from building owners must be returned to the MHCLG by 30 October and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue are helping to contact the owners as a matter of urgency.
The Council owns 36 high rise properties in the city. Whitebeck Court in North Manchester required remediation works after it was found that a small number of cladding panels did not match the specification on building control records. All the panels and insulation on the building have already been replaced to reassure residents.
And works have also been completed to ensure compartmentation of flats – a key tenet of high rise fire safety – in three residential blocks at the Brunswick PFI project.
Investment in sprinkler systems in Council-owned residential blocks managed by Northwards Housing in north Manchester has started and similar investment at properties in both the Brunswick and Miles Platting PFI schemes has been agreed..
Cllr Suzanne Richards, Manchester City Council’s executive member for housing and regeneration, said: “Three years following the Grenfell tragedy and it’s unacceptable that some fire safety works haven’t yet even started – and it’s shameful that some building owners have ignored requests for safety information completely.
“Grenfell should have been the kick that the industry needed to make sure its own house is in order and keep their tenants and leaseholders safe. I would urge those building owners to expedite the necessary works as soon as possible.
“And we know that there are still hundreds of leaseholders in the city who have been or are about to be charged life-changing sums of money by building owners. Leaseholders should not be bearing an unfair burden of the costs of fire safety works. We have consistently said this is wrong and we will continue to support residents’ groups – such as the Cladiators – who are fighting for fair treatment and safe homes.”