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It’s solid aluminium! Ampthill Square estate gets all clear from cladding test centre

Panels sent back without full test as cladding was not a composite

06 July, 2017 — By Richard Osley

A fire at the Ampthill Square estate in 2011

GOVERNMENT testers last night (Wednesday) gave another range of council tower blocks in Camden the all clear, as the council was told the cladding samples it had sent in did not even warrant a full fire risk test. Tenants on the Ampthill Square estate – the three tower blocks close to Mornington Crescent – had sat through a nervous 10-day wait to know what was inside the cladding wrapped around their homes.

It turned out, however, the panels were made of solid aluminium, and therefore not relevant to current wave of nationwide testing in the wake of the Grenfell tower tragedy.

Asked whether the findings at the test centre suggested the council was in the dark about what its council estate buildings were made of, council leader Councillor Georgia Gould said the samples had been sent because it was “better to be safe than sorry” and “we didn’t think the cladding at the Chalcots would fail the test and it did, so we had to make sure”. Camden had estimated earlier in the week that replacing the cladding at Ampthill Square would have led to a bill of around £20m.

Labour councillor Paul Tomlinson, who lives on the estate, had said earlier in the week that “tenants were really worried and want to know what’s going on”. Concerns over fire safety at the towers were revealed after the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority served an “enforcement notice” on Camden Council to make urgent changes after a blaze there in 2011. Fifty people were evacuated from the 20-storey Gillfoot tower during that fire.

Smoke was reported to have spread through the stairwells. A similar incident had occurred at the estate two years earlier. Documents seen by the New Journal show the emergency authority warned then that fire risk assessment at the blocks had been “not suitable and sufficient.”

During the audit it was found that the possibility of smoke travel behind the cladding on the outside of the building has not been appropriately considered,” the authority’s report said, asking for further investigation. It also questioned storage arrangements and said a fire alarm panel been “decommissioned”.

Cllr Gould said the “enhanced fire safety checks” – similar to the ones which revealed the major concerns at the Chalcots – would still take place at Ampthill Square despite the reassurance from the cladding tests and any existing risks would be identified.

She said of the cladding: “The panels are made of solid aluminium. The Building Research Establishment did not therefore feel the panels required a full test. We can also confirm the insulation behind the panels is Rockwool and the gaps between the insulation and the windows have had fire stopping work done to them and this has been signed off by the London Fire Brigade.”

Other council tower blocks do not need testing, the council has said, because they are covered with a concrete render. These include Denton in Chalk Farm, and Casterbridge and Snowman in South Hampstead.

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