Multi agency summit held to co-ordinate city response to Grenfell tower block fire

A high level multi-agency meeting has been held to ensure measures are in place to ensure the safety of residents in tower blocks in Plymouth following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London.

The agencies agreed a joined up approach to assessing the risks and implications for the city, including responding to requests for information and action from Government agencies.

The meeting called by the City Council was attended by Plymouth Community Homes, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, Devon and Cornwall Police, the Council’s Community Protection, Public Health, Planning and Building Control teams.

The Council is sharing information about high rise buildings with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service to ensure all of them are re-assessed.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is proactively carrying out visits to high rise blocks, which are classified as buildings over five storeys high.

Plymouth has the highest number of high rise buildings in the service area, with initial assessments showing there are 73 properties of this type. Initial visits have already been made to properties but there will now be follow up visits.

High rise residential blocks with cladding are being prioritised but all high rise blocks, including non-residential blocks without cladding, will be assessed.

Where necessary, samples of cladding from high rise buildings will be sent for tests.

Agencies are reiterating to property owners the need to ensure building regulations have been followed for all alterations, no matter how small. Minor alterations to communal entrances, stairway lobbies and fire doors for example, can affect the integrity of fire safety systems and compromise means of escape.

Plymouth Community Homes, like most social housing providers, has a high level of fire safety checks already in place. Full risk assessments on all PCH properties are in place and PCH has a fire safety manager, as well as using a leading fire safety consultant and working with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.

PCH has already worked with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue to carry out an on-site visit and review of the fire safety measures at the three Mount Wise tower blocks, which were found to be up-to-date, compliant and did not require any immediate action. A cladding panel has already been sent for testing under controlled conditions in line with national advice from the Government to all housing providers.

Agencies in Plymouth will also be working together to provide public information and ensure property owners and landlords are clear on what they need to do to ensure safety.

Plymouth City Council chief executive Tracey Lee said: “We have strong partnerships in place in Plymouth and this really helps on urgent and critical issues such as this. We are doing everything we can as one team to ensure all high rise properties in Plymouth are fully assessed, that residents are assured that extra checks are taking place and that property owners and landlords are clear about what they need to do.”

Lee Howell, Chief Fire Officer at Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The Service has implemented an inspection programme for all known high rise premises in Devon and Somerset to ensure that a suitable level of fire safety compliance is achieved, especially where people sleep.

“Working with building owners and local authorities, we will be giving reassurance to residents regarding the appropriate fire procedures for their building.”

John Clark, Chief Executive at Plymouth Community Homes, said: “We take the safety and wellbeing of our residents extremely seriously and all our high rise homes have been subjected to robust fire risk assessments, which ensure that relevant fire-safety measures are in place including mains connected smoke alarms and fire doors that exceed the statutory requirements.

“We will work with our partners in the Fire Service and Council to respond quickly to new advice or instruction as a result of the centrally-organised reviews and testing taking place, which will ensure our position on fire safety remains compliant.”

A range of information about fire safety for both residents and landlords is available on the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service website.