Residents on the Barking Riverside estate in east London are demanding the removal of all timber cladding after a serious fire at a Sheppard Robson-designed new-build housing block at the weekend
About 100 firefighters attended the large blaze at the block on De Pass Gardens on Sunday afternoon.
An investigation has been launched into the cause of fire, which destroyed about 20 flats and damaged a further 10. 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.
Residents’ association treasurer Venilia Batista Amorim, who lives in a house opposite the block, said residents had written to the builders Mace and original developer Bellway Homes to express concerns about the timber cladding.
’We were reassured that all of the wood that was used was within legal requirements, she said, adding: ’We received an email saying the materials were fire-retardant and residents would have half an hour to escape. But videos show the building bursting into flames in three minutes.’
Fire on the Barking Riverside estate. Huge!!! Serious!!! Only a couple of weeks after the residents association specifically asked the builders @Bellway_Homes who said the wood cladding was fire retardant and perfectly safe @barkingriver @barkingriver @CllrDRodwell pic.twitter.com/nVeuy0xAXq— Venilia Batista Amorim (@vbatistaamorim) June 9, 2019
Batista Amorim said the association would now launch a campaign to remove all the wooden cladding which covers many of the 1,400 homes in the first phase of Barking Riverside.
She said: ’We need to get this removed. Something like this had to happen for us to be heard.’
As a six-storey block, Samuel Garside House is unlikely to be covered by government ban on combustible materials in external walls – including balconies – which only applies to buildings taller than 18m.
Fire expert Sam Webb said the 18m threshold was too high and that, had the fire occurred 12 hours later, ’we would have woken up to a death toll to rival Grenfell’.
He pointed out that balcony fires were becoming more frequent and said the problem was the government’s fire safety building regulations, known as Approved Document B.
’Ministers who have power to change it have sat on their hands, saying these are difficult technical issues best left to the experts. The experts are their advisers who got us into this mess in the first place. They are not going to admit mistakes. The ministers know it; the experts know it. So nothing changes except people get promoted and any inquiry can be stretched to infinity.’
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.
LFB Deputy Commissioner Richard Mills said: ’Fire crews and our fire investigators will be at the scene throughout the day (Monday, June 10) to fully investigate and understand all of the circumstances of the fire.’
A spokesperson for Sheppard Robson said: ‘We are unable to comment at this time.’
Bellway Homes and L&Q were contacted for comment.
D8oci0owsay yay (1)
Source: London Fire Brigade