CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Chalcots cladding ‘was agreed by Town Hall’, contractor claims

Firm refutes council leader's statement that panels were 'not to the standard that we had commissioned'

06 July, 2017 — By William McLennan

CAMDEN Council knew that cladding panels installed on the now-evacuated Chalcots estate contained polyethylene rather than a more expensive flame-retardant material, according to the contractor which refurbished the tower blocks.

Construction firm Rydon made the claim as both sides said they were consulting lawyers following the revelation that the blocks in Adelaide Road had been wrapped with panels similar to the flammable cladding found at Grenfell Tower, the block in north Kensington where at least 79 people have died or are presumed dead following a horrific inferno last month.

The tense relations between Camden and its contractor follow the order to move tenants and leaseholders out on fire-risk grounds. The discovery of polyethylene had led to an inspection by the fire services, which in turn found other fire safety issues and, combined, led to the evacuation.

In a letter seen by the New Journal, Rydon chief executive Robert Bond has told council chiefs that the cladding material used in the company’s refurbishment project was agreed by the Town Hall at the time. He said the company had provided Camden with technical details of the material at the time.

A copy of the certification document for the panels, which Rydon said was seen by the council before they were installed, has been obtained by this newspaper. The certificate states that the Reynobond cladding panels are made of two sheets of aluminium “bonded either side of a core of low-density polyethylene”.

The description adds: “The products are also available in a fire-retardant grade.” In a section entitled “behaviour in relation to fire” it states that the panels had been tested and found to meet the requirements of building regulations. “Cavity barriers should be incorporated behind the cladding, as required by the national Building Regulations, but should not block essential ventilation pathways,” it adds.

A fire at Taplow tower on the Chalcots wrecked a single flat in 2012 but did not spread across the tower.

Mr Bond sent the letter following a statement by council leader Georgia Gould on June 22, the day after she learned that samples of the cladding at the Chalcots had failed government fire safety checks.

She said: “The new results from the laboratory show that the outer cladding panels themselves are made up of aluminium panels with a polyethylene core. Therefore, the panels that were fitted were not to the standard that we had commissioned. In light of this, we will be informing the contractor that we will be taking urgent legal advice.”

Mr Bond told Cllr Gould that the firm “strongly refute the implication in these statements that Rydon Construction has designed, specified or installed the cladding on these blocks in any way which is less than that required by the contract”. A spokeswoman for Rydon refused to comment on the contents of the letter, but confirmed that Mr Bond had written to Cllr Gould. Camden has said all work at the tower would fall under its investigation into events leading to the evacuation.

The role of cladding in allowing flames to spread across the outside of Grenfell Tower has come under increasing scrutiny.

The government ordered that all samples from “aluminium composite” cladding be sent for testing. Communities secretary Sajid Javid said on Monday that “all 181 samples of cladding tested have failed”.

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