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‘Substantial risk’ posed by poor fire safety provisions at eight UK tower blocks

Analysis of hundreds of safety assessments at high-rise buildings was carried out by Inside Housing.

A string of fire safety failings at eight tower blocks across the country posed a “substantial” threat to the lives of their tenants, according to risk assessors.

Analysis of hundreds of safety assessments at high-rise buildings by Inside Housing unearthed major flaws identified as recently as June this year.

The most severe cases were inadequate fire doors and air ducts running unprotected up buildings, both of which could aide the spread of a blaze.

Two of the buildings, which were judged at risk in 2012, are metres away from Great Ormond Street children’s hospital.

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(PA graphic)

The Grenfell Tower blaze has thrust the issue of tower block fire safety into the spotlight after flames rapidly engulfed the structure while its escape route became clogged by smoke.

According to the trade magazine, the “substantial risk” at the eight towers was pinpointed in fire risk assessments (FRAs) between 2012 and 2017.

In January, Sturminster House in Southampton was found to be blighted by poor escape lighting, trip hazards in escape routes and a lack of smoke seals on some fire doors.

Southampton Council, which owns the building, said the risk assessment was “a snapshot of the risks that were present at the time” and “the most pressing issues were addressed immediately”.

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There are around 4,000 tower blocks across England (Ben Stevens/PA)

In 2012, risk assessors found that smokers living at Babington Court and Chancellors Court in Camden, north London, had been stubbing cigarettes out on flammable uPVC windows.

The probe, carried out by Hoare Lea, also uncovered non-fire resistant doors and vandalised smoke alarms and vents, Inside Housing reported.

The two 14-storey towers contain 112 flats and are situated next to the children’s hospital.

A spokesman for Camden Council said problems had since been addressed and the buildings were given a normal rating in June.

FRAs from 436 blocks were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from 36 councils or arms-length management organisations and seven housing associations, dated between 2012 and July this year.

There are around 4,000 tower blocks across England, at which there is no legal requirement for those managing the buildings to carry out fire safety assessments within a specific time-frame. Fire experts recommend annual checks.

The other towers found to pose a serious risk to the safety of tenants were:

:: Mount Court and Bishops Court in Guildford, overseen by Guildford Council and assessed in June 2017

:: Boyswell House in Wigan, run by Wigan and Leigh Homes and assessed in March 2016

:: Ratcliffe Towers in Stockport, run by Stockport Homes and assessed in March 2013

:: Queensway House in Hatfield, run by Welwyn Hatfield Community Housing and assessed in December 2015

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