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Council blocks facing collapse as Packington fault 'is everywhere'

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Hundreds of 1960s and '70s council housing blocks nationwide could be teetering on the brink of collapse, the architect investigating the crisis at the Packington Estate in north London has warned.

Sam Webb - the man who investigated the 1968 Ronan Point disaster - has also persuaded housing minister Keith Hill to instruct the ODPM buildings division to launch an inquiry into the problem.

The Kent-based architect told the AJ that the problem of large panel-block (LPB) building systems was so widespread that it is 'almost impossible to overstate the problem'.

Webb's official Packington report concludes that the estate in Islington is five times as likely to collapse as other buildings because of the combination of the LPB system and the explosive gas canisters used for cooking.

But he has since warned that the danger is more widespread. 'This problem does not stop with Packington, ' he said. 'What the local authorities and the government need to understand is that it is everywhere. Something needs to be done and fast.'

The LPB system - which saw construction of buildings using panel blocks held together largely through gravity and friction - was in widespread use during the boom in social housing construction of the late '60s and early '70s.

'This is definitely not the first of this problem and very definitely not the last. People need to be aware that these buildings can collapse like a pack of cards, 'Webb added.

Webb has written to both Hill and the local MP, Chris Smith warning about the extent of the LBP problem nationwide.

In his official reply, Hill said he recognised the urgency of the problem. He said he would 'seek advice' from the ODPM's buildings division, which would allow him to make an official response to the problem soon.

Islington council has officially accepted that the Packington Estate needs to be demolished and has agreed that a £63 million grant should be used to rebuild it.

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