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Grenfell-style cladding on Belfast flats complex near bonfire

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SUSCEPTIBLE: Victoria Place

SUSCEPTIBLE: Victoria Place

SUSCEPTIBLE: Victoria Place

An apartment block once damaged by an Eleventh Night bonfire has Grenfell-style cladding fitted, Sunday Life can reveal.

The 10-storey Victoria Place block in south Belfast will be given the lowest fire safety rating of 'B2’ of the cladding is not replaced, with residents potentially facing a six-figure bill to have the material replaced.

But the building on Wellwood Street, off Sandy Row, is also next to the site of a loyalist bonfire which in 2017 (below) shattered window panes and buckled frames with its heat.

Fears of a similar disaster to that which hit the infamous tower block in west London are such that the Fire Service has lowered the time it takes to respond to a blaze at Victoria Place in light of the cladding type being discovered.

A recent letter sent to residents by the building management company and seen by Sunday Life states that expert analysis of the rainscreen cladding from the building's 12-storey stairwell found "no flame retardant properties".

Known as aluminium composite material (ACM), the letter states that if it is not replaced a B2 rating would have to be assigned to the building, the lowest possible.

This fire safety rating is not accepted by most mortgage lenders and would make selling or borrowing against an apartment in the building almost impossible.

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MADNESS: A bonfire blazes in 2017, right beside apartments with little protection against the heat

MADNESS: A bonfire blazes in 2017, right beside apartments with little protection against the heat

MADNESS: A bonfire blazes in 2017, right beside apartments with little protection against the heat

Although there is currently no legal requirement in Northern Ireland to have the cladding replaced, the presence of ACM material means the building won't be given an all-clear fire safety report, known as an EWS1.

The letter states that a best case scenario of replacement with fire-safe panels would cost around £160,000 - but if the building couldn't take the heavier non-flammable panelling, then that could rise to £390,000 due to additional work.

It adds that the Fire Service and the building's insurers have been notified along with increased security patrols to watch for fire.

South Belfast SDLP MP Claire Hanna called on Stormont to follow England's example and reduce the cost to residents of having potentially dangerous cladding replaced.

"For many people the property of choice of which they reside in should be one of the safest places on earth, however, in this case the home for many is a place of fear and worry both for their own health and safety and the distress of facing a financial penalty for a mistake not of their making," she said.

"On February 10, the minister for housing, communities and local government stepped up to the mark and provided a scheme for leaseholders across England yet our Executive have failed to publish a single proposal.

"Specifically, the minister of finance has refused to answer the question on whether they will make funds available for constituents throughout Northern Ireland who may find unsafe cladding on their residential building.

"I have engaged with both the Victoria Place management company and Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue service to ensure the tenants of Victoria Place are protected as much as possible but this problem requires State intervention.

"I am calling on the finance minister to make the funds available so the tenants of Victoria Place can undertake the remedial work required and get to a place where they can sleep easy again without fear."


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