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Developer ‘highly likely’ to replace wooden balconies after Barking Riverside fire

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Developers behind the Sheppard Robson-designed Barking Riverside estate have said it is ‘highly likely’ that timber cladding and balconies will be replaced following a serious fire

Residents called for the timber cladding to be removed across the east London development after the blaze at De Pass Gardens on Sunday afternoon.

In a statement this morning, Bellway Homes said that, while the material on Samuel Garside House was compliant with building regulations, it would act in a ‘positive manner’ to reassure residents. 

A spokesperson said: ’It is highly likely that we will replace the cladding and balconies in order to allay any concerns residents may have.’

The developer added it was currently on site conducting a survey and was working with building owner Adriatic and insurers. 

Residents’ association treasurer Venilia Batista Amorim, who lives in a house opposite the block said residents had not yet been informed that the decision might be taken to remove the cladding.

’That’s what we want, and that is what the residents’ association is calling for,’ she said.

Speaking yesterday to the AJ, Batista Amorim said residents wanted the removal of all wooden cladding, which covers many of the 1,400 homes in the first phase of Barking Riverside. 

An investigation has been launched into the cause of fire, which destroyed about 20 flats and damaged a further 10. Initial reports have suggested that the fire started by a barbecue on a resident’s balcony. 

A man and a woman were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

As the blaze took hold at Samuel Garside House, residents shared images of its timber-clad balconies going up in flames on social media.

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.

Bellway Homes’ regional chairman Ian Gorst told residents at a meeting today (11 June) the building was 13.75m tall and 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.’

Fire expert Sam Webb said that had the fire occurred 12 hours later, ’we would have woken up to a death toll to rival Grenfell’ and that balcony fires were becoming increasingly frequent. 

In January 2018 Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service raised its concerns about the safety of wooden balconies following a blaze at the 12-storey residental block of the Conran & Partners-designed Lighthouse scheme in the city’s Northern Quarter.

The Mayor of London has said the fire at Barking Riverside was ’shocking’ and could easily have resulted in fatalities. He called for a fire safety review at the housing development. 

’This incident highlights both City Hall’s total lack of powers over private building owners and the woefully slow response from the government and developers to the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower – two years on, residents in blocks of flats are still living in fear that their buildings are unsafe,’ he said.

The Mayor added he would be ’pushing for vital changes’ to be made on the estate to make sure residents’ safety is ensured. 

Sheppard Robson, in partnership with MaccreanorLavington and KCAP, designed the 45ha phase one masterplan for the first chunk of 10,800 homes at Barking Riverside, one of the UK’s largest recent residential regeneration schemes.

The properties were built in 2012 by developer Bellway Homes but L&Q took over its stake and is now joint venture partner on the wider scheme with the GLA. 

Samuel Garside House was later sold to investors Adriatic, though some units are also owned by Southern Housing Group.

Asked to comment on the fire, a spokesperson for Sheppard Robson said: ‘We are unable to comment at this time.’

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D8oci0owsay yay (1)

Source: London Fire Brigade

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Did the Mayor of London make no reference to Bellway's statement that the balconies complied with building regulations?

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  • Timothy Crone

    If the material complied with building regulations and the lease explicitly said that no BBQ’s were to be had on the balconies, then this is negligence by the resident. Having lived in an estate with balconies (shared emergency egress) residents frequently disregard rules on access, leaving items explicitly banned from being left out. A BBQ on a balcony is just ignorant of your fellow residents, not to mention dangerous.

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  • Timber is a safe material when supported by safe design. The small diameter of the timber pieces, vertically uninterrupted cladding and the two balcony facades turned towards each other introduce risk factors that could have been designed out. Rather than a blanket ban on an environmentally very sound material, we need to learn how to work with timber

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