Fire concerns about east London tower block engulfed by flames were raised 3 years ago

Kate Plummer
Friday 07 May 2021 13:40
news

Fire safety concerns were raised around three years ago about a block of flats which has been engulfed in flames, it has emerged.

More than 100 firefighters tackled the blaze which ripped through the New Providence Wharf tower in Poplar, east London, on Friday.

Approximately 22 per cent of the 19-storey building’s facade features the same flamable cladding panels which were found to be a key factor in the Grenfell Tower fire of 2017.

Work to replace the ACM cladding was “under way” and the main contractor had been due to take possession of the site on Monday, according to building developer Ballymore.

One resident said on Instagram: “When your building has the same cladding as Grenfell Tower. Oh my god.”

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Landor Residential, part of the Ballymore group, was criticised by ministers in 2018 after they told the 500 people living in New Providence Wharf to foot an average bill of £4,000 each to remove the cladding.

The mayor of Tower Hamlets and the two East End MPs then campaigned in 2019 for the Government to put pressure on private developers to replace it.

Whitehall made the money to do so available but, as of Friday, work on the building was still pending.

Pictures and videos on social media showed part of the building consumed by fire, with thick grey smoke pouring from the block.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) said two adults had been admitted to hospital after suffering the effects of smoke inhalation and a further 38 adults and four children were treated at the scene.

It comes just days after the Government’s post-Grenfell fire safety regulations, which campaigners argue could leave leaseholders paying tens of thousands of pounds to remove cladding on their buildings.

Survivors’ and relatives’ group Grenfell United said in a statement: “We are horrified by the news of the fire at the New Providence Wharf today. When will the Government take this scandal seriously? Enough is enough.

“The Government promised to remove dangerous cladding by June 2020 – it has completely failed its own target and every day that goes by lives are at risk. Today more people have lost their homes in another terrifying fire.

“The Government needs to treat this as an emergency and stop stonewalling residents who are raising concerns. No more games, no more excuses.”

Responding to the crisis, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “The spectre of the tragedy at Grenfell still hangs over our city. Today we have seen again why residents in buildings with flammable cladding are living in fear.

“It is vital that Government, developers, building owners and regional authorities work together to urgently remove the cladding from every affected building.”

Meawnhile Poplar MP Apsana Begum said:

And Streatham’s MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy added:

Last week, for the fifth time, MPs rejected an attempt to protect hundreds of thousands of leaseholders from crippling fire safety bills of up to £100,000 each.

Meanwhile, it was revealed last year that the government missed its June 2020 deadline to remove cladding from 300 high-rise residential and publicly-owned buildings.

Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said: “It is extremely alarming to see another high-rise building in the heart of London light up in flames.

“It should shame this Government that four years on from Grenfell, there are people across the country living in buildings wrapped in flammable cladding.

“Time and time again we’ve warned that another Grenfell could be just around the corner unless they prioritise making people’s homes safe.

“The pace of removing flammable cladding has been glacial and it’s putting people’s lives at risk. The Government must intervene and take quick and decisive action to end our building safety crisis once and for all.”

Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, tweeted:

Ballymore responded with a statement saying: “Our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by this morning’s fire at New Providence Wharf.

“The safety of our residents is paramount and we are working closely with the London Fire Brigade.

“We can confirm that the fire was quickly brought under control by the Fire Brigade and is now extinguished. Our response team are on-site to support residents and assist with alternative accommodation where necessary.

“We will update once we have more information.”

LFB said parts of the eighth, ninth and 10th floors were alight on the building, adding that it had received 13 calls to the fire.

It added: “The brigade was called at 0855. Fire crews from Poplar, Millwall, Shadwell, Plaistow, Whitechapel and surrounding fire stations are at the scene.

“The cause of the fire is not known at this stage.”

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