Council accused of ignoring Grenfell-style 'death trap'

Residents have called the building a "death trap"

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A council has been accused of doing nothing to make a Grenfell-style tower block safe in the fifteen months since it bought the building.

Slough Borough Council acquired Nova House in March 2018, promising to "protect the safety of the residents".

But flammable cladding has not been removed and those who live in the block have told talkRADIO it remains a "death trap".

Resident Peter Bothwell said: "They've done absolutely nothing. If they cared, work would have begun long ago."

Slough Borough Council strongly refutes the claims.

The six-storey building was converted from offices to flats in 2015 and failed safety tests following the Grenfell tragedy.

An inspection in November 2017 found 181 defects and concluded the building "requires immediate remediation to bring the fire safety back to an acceptable standard".

Since then a fire and rescue vehicle has been parked outside the building but residents believe it does not hold a ladder long enough to reach the top floor.

When talkRADIO visited the site nobody was inside the vehicle.

A fire and rescue vehicle has been spotted outside the building

"Every day I play Russian roulette and say to myself 'There won't be a fire'", Mr Bothwell added. "But all the residents of Grenfell must have felt the same."

Slough Borough Council's acquisition of Nova House - a private block - was the first deal of its kind in the country.

The authority insists repairs have been delayed because inspections revealed numerous other issues.

Council consultant Mike England, who oversees the building, said: "We discovered major problems with the fire stopping, which is what stops a fire spreading from floor to floor, and even problems with the steel structure where the fire resistance hadn't been dealt with properly when the building was converted."

A plan for remediation has been agreed with Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service and work is due to begin before the end of 2019.

It had been complicated by the need to avoid evacuations whilst repairs are carried out.

But residents insist every day risks another disaster. 

In legal documents seen by talkRADIO, leaseholder Rita Pell describes Nova House as "a building that could lead to all the residents dying within minutes of a fire starting."

"The cladding has to be replaced and it has to be replaced yesterday", resident Mr Bothwell added.

Mr England however, insists he and others are safe: "We have a heat detector system in place in every flat, which links directly into the Council's CCTV control centre. There is also a 24 hour waking watch, which is staffed by fully qualified fire fighters."   

A total of £600m has been provided by the government to remove flammable aluminium-based cladding from social and private tower blocks. 

Friday marks the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire.

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