Cheshire West and Chester Council takes its fire safety responsibilities extremely seriously.
In the light of the recent tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, the Council, working with partner organisations, has taken steps to review existing fire safety measures and to undertake a number of additional safety checks across buildings owned or managed by the Council or buildings where Council commissioned services are delivered from.
We have provided below a range of information for Cheshire West and Chester residents, to provide reassurance about the safety measures already in place and to advise on the additional steps we are taking to ensure that all practical measures are being taken to minimise risk.
This information will be updated regularly to ensure that residents can access current and accurate information.
High rise buildings
High rise buildings are over 18 metres (59 feet) or more than six storeys in height.
The Council owns three high rise towers at Joseph Groome Towers in Ellesmere Port. Each of these blocks are 13 storeys in height and in total contain 151 residential flats. There is no external cladding on Joseph Groome Towers.
Other Council-owned high rise buildings
In addition to the three housing blocks, the Council owns or manages 14 other buildings that are 18 metres high or more. None of these buildings have external cladding of the Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) type that is currently being tested by the government.
Other social housing high rise buildings in West Cheshire
There are nine high rise buildings in Chester owned and managed by Sanctuary Housing. All nine blocks have cladding installed and one of the blocks has sprinklers partially installed. There are no other high rise buildings owned by social landlords in the borough.
Risk assessments and sprinklers within Council owned tower blocks
Following the fire in London, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service attended the Council owned Joseph Groome Towers to carry out fire safety audits. No issues were raised as a result of the inspections.
Scheduled fire risk assessments were carried out on 21 June 2017 by independent fire risk consultants, we are awaiting the final reports from these assessments. No issues of concern were raised at the time of the assessments. Prior to this, a full fire risk assessment was carried out in December 2015.
Fire safety measures within Council owned tower blocks
Fire safety measures at Joseph Groome Towers include:
- Fire alarms are tested every week.
- Regular fire safety inspections are carried out and any resulting emergency work required is undertaken within 24 hours.
- Fixed and portable firefighting equipment is provided and regularly tested and serviced.
- Fire risk assessments are carried out for each of the tower blocks, in accordance with statutory guidelines.
Sprinkler systems are also partially installed at Joseph Groome Towers.
At the time of installation some tenants declined the offer of having sprinklers installed in their flats. The Council is in the process of contacting these residents to once again make the sprinkler installation offer and is working with ForHousing, our housing management provider, to appoint a contractor to install the sprinklers.
Schools and other buildings (Low rise)
Buildings lower than 18 metres high are not subject to the same requirements in terms of cladding. However, the Council will work with central government if any changes are made with regard to regulations for other buildings.
The Director of Capital at the Education and Skills Funding Agency wrote to Directors of Children’s Services on 23 June asking for a survey return to be submitted by 30 June, for each school that the Council maintains. This excludes Voluntary Aided schools and Academies who have been contacted separately. This return was submitted on 30 June.
Keeping Council tenants informed
The Council has sent a letter to all the tenants at Joseph Groome Towers, informing them of the steps that it has taken since the Grenfell fire and reassuring them of the safety measures in place to protect them. A letter to all tenants is due to be sent in early July advising them on the all safety compliance measures that are in place and offering fire safety advice.
All building work must meet current building codes and regulation requirements.
The Council's building control service ensures that buildings are designed and constructed in accordance with the Building Regulations and associated legislation.
It is the responsibility of those carrying out the building work to ensure that the provisions of the regulations are fully met. The role of Building Control is only to check that they do so.
Other health and safety actions
The Council has been liaising with partner organisations, its service providers and Council-owned companies to coordinate the response to date. The Council is working with its Joint Venture partner, QWest Services, to undertake a series of precautionary health and safety inspections at a number of Council-owned, operated or commissioned sites.
These include schools, care homes and leisure centres. More information will follow upon the completion of these inspections.