It is very hard to comprehend the sheer enormity of the tragedy that has just happened at Grenfell Tower in London but quite understandably residents of multi storey blocks everywhere could be very anxious.
We have several such blocks in Middlesbrough and I am therefore determined that there be a thorough examination of our housing stock and that all relevant steps are taken to ensure that our residents are safe, and are made safe, and that they can be suitably reassured.
I have spoken with our Chief Fire Officer today and Cleveland Fire Brigade will be carrying out inspections at all such properties over the next 2-3 weeks.
They have already issued guidance to residents and I will be discussing that with them and others in greater detail as a matter of some urgency.
I have also spoken with, and had information from, our major housing associations.
Both they and Cleveland Fire Brigade are attending all these premises and are addressing residents’ immediate concerns and have distributed information leaflets. More information is on their websites, and neighbourhood teams are available to residents and are regularly in attendance at the properties.
The external materials applied to these blocks over the years are a mixture, differing between properties, and of course they have had renewal and other works carried out spanning out across many years.
Nevertheless, they are all going to be tested.
In addition fire safety checks are being carried out at the properties and in some instances, 13 Housing Association are conducting fire inspections three times a day.
Clearly we need to learn more about what needs to be done in response to this most terrible tragedy, but in my initial discussions I am hearing that “misting systems”- which are apparently more effective than sprinkler systems – were already being actively progressed for installation and that will continue.
Again we need to know much more but I am reassured that our properties are compartmentalised between floors and are so structured to prevent the spread of fire.
Whilst any works previously undertaken will presumably have been fully compliant with building regulations and the applicable standards at that time, we now need to apply the most rigorous standards that are relevant today and ensure that all our properties meet those very highest standards.
We need to explore what the right options are for the building of new properties, but in the short term we have to address the immediate issues that this terrible event raises.
Whilst I am extremely keen to meet with the housing associations, the local council, Cleveland Fire Brigade and others, and they have indicated their willingness to do so. For today, I am confident that every agency is responding in the appropriate way to address the immediate concerns here in Middlesbrough and conducting the right investigations and enquiries of their own.
I intend to sit down with them all in very short order to hear from them further and ensure that the safety and well-being of our residents have been fully and properly addressed.
The Fire Brigade are available to provide reassurance to residents who wish to contact them.
Please be aware that the safety record in our high rise properties in Middlesbrough has, so far, been exemplary. Nevertheless, I will be totally focussed in my efforts to make sure that whatever else needs be done is done so that residents can be then reassured about the safety of their homes.
I recommend that any residents with any concerns contact their housing provider and of course Cleveland Fire Brigade but they can also contact me should they wish at my office on 01642 246574 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be very happy to try and help and advise. Please stay safe.