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Sunday 19 November 2017

600 high-rises may have same cladding as inferno tower block

Grenfell tower. Photo: PA
Grenfell tower. Photo: PA

Six hundred tower blocks in England could be covered in the same or similar combustible cladding to that which has been blamed for the rapid spread of London's Grenfell Tower blaze.

Urgent tests in the wake of the disaster that killed at least 79 people have so far revealed that the flammable material has been found on at least three blocks across the UK, prime minister Theresa May said.

However, Downing Street later disclosed that English councils estimated that 600 high-rise buildings used similar cladding to the tower in west London that was the scene of last week's tragedy.

Addressing questions about whether any of the blocks would be evacuated, a spokeswoman said: "Obviously, nobody will be living in buildings that are unsafe. They will be rehoused if they need to be."

Councils were told on Monday to provide the government with details of the cladding used on high-rises.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said three at-risk buildings so far identified were not being named until the landlords had had the opportunity to inform tenants.

Cladding has been fitted to the exterior of hundreds of 1960s and 1970s residential blocks across Britain to improve their appearance.

However, it emerged that Grenfell contractors used a more flammable type of material for the outer layer.

Speaking in the Commons yesterday, Mrs May said the local authorities and fire services concerned were taking "all possible steps" to ensure buildings were safe and residents informed.

However, the revelation will raise serious safety questions and put pressure on the prime minister about whether or not enough is being done to protect residents in blocks with "combustible" cladding.

Upmarket

Meanwhile, residents of Kensington's luxury properties were divided after news that survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire would be permanently rehoused in a new £2bn (€2.3bn) development in the area.

The Government announced 68 social homes would be made available at Kensington Row to families left homeless in the blaze, but reactions were mixed in the upmarket area.

Many residents were relieved to hear that families who had lost so much were finally receiving some good news, but others were less compassionate.

Anna, who is in her 60s and lives in a flat only a stone's throw from the new development, said she would not be happy to see survivors rehoused in her area.

"North Kensington is not this Kensington. They should be in a place where they are happy, but not here. I don't want them here," she said.

However, one mother-of-two, who did not want to be named, said she was disgusted by the heartless reaction of her neighbours.

"They're saying, 'Have you heard about how they're letting these people who don't work live in luxury apartments?'" she said.

"I just thought, Oh, my God, haven't these people suffered enough?"

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