Fire experts had warned that the wooden balconies on the Sheppard Robson-designed Barking Riverside block were a ‘significant hazard’ months before a major fire
An independent fire risk assessment took place in January on Samuel Garside House, the six-storey block which was badly damaged in a fire on 9 June.
According to the document, seen by the AJ, it could not be ascertained whether or not the wooden decks and joists had been treated with ‘fire-resistant materials’.
It said: ‘If a balcony does catch fire, it should be noted that this will accelerate fire spread through either setting the balcony above alight or through entering the flats through open windows and this will put residents and visitors at risk of smoke inhalation and burn injuries.’
The assessment recommended that the cladding was checked and for the building’s manager to warn people not to have barbeques on their balconies.
The report was commissioned by building manager RMG. However, despite the survey’s findings, the company’s chief, Hugh McGeever, was filmed telling residents at a meeting last week there had been ‘no factor’ identified as a risk with the balconies.
He insisted: ‘The type one assessment [from January] looked at the building and the components; it also looked at the fact that actually, the building was fully compliant with building regulations and there was no factor that was identified as a risk with the balconies.’
According to residents, RMG will now carry out a more thorough type four risk assessment on the block, which should include an inspection of areas of construction in the flats by use of a camera or borescope probe, by a third party.
As a six-storey block, Samuel Garside House is not covered by the government ban on combustible materials in external walls, including balconies, – which only applies to buildings taller than 18m.
Ian Gorst, regional chairman of the block’s developer, Bellway Homes, told residents at a meeting last week that the cladding was not ‘fire retardant’.
According to the Barking and Dagenham Times, Gorst said: ‘The building is not clad in timber. It is built out of brick and block but what you have is a steel balcony structure and across that you have a decorative feature which is a cedar cladding.’
He added: ‘There is no legal requirement to build out of non-combustible materials.’
The AJ understands that Bellway had not received the report before the fire but had been asked by RMG to provide information on the materials used on Samuel Garside house.
Last week Bellway said it was ‘highly likely’ they would strip the timber cladding from the rest of its homes across the Barking Riverside estate.
Bellway said it could not comment on the fire itself while the investigation was ongoing.
RMG has been approached for comment.