Supporting those affected
Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, Notting Hill Housing continues to provide support to our residents and the wider community, while ensuring our current and future housing stock is as safe as possible.
Twelve Notting Hill Housing residents lived in Grenfell Tower, all of whom were tenants of our temporary housing team. Sadly, despite numerous attempts, we have only been able to contact four of them – all from the same household.
We have reported the remaining eight as missing, and our temporary housing team has been in regular contact with the four survivors offering as much assistance as possible, including accommodation, food and money.
We also provided support to other NHH residents living in the wider Lancaster West Estate who were evacuated after the fire. We offered housing support but most chose to stay with friends or family and were able to return after a few days. Some were understandably reluctant to do so and our temporary housing team continues to work with them to ensure they are appropriately rehoused.
We are offering our full support to assist the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea with rehousing needs. We continue to inform the council of any empty homes we have immediately or imminently available and are prioritising the need to support Grenfell residents in being rehoused.
In addition, we have provided counselling for our staff who have, understandably, been shocked by what they have seen.
Our policy is to carry out a fire risk assessment of all high risk homes annually. This includes buildings over 18 meters in height as well as those where residents are felt to be particularly vulnerable, such as our extra care schemes. We are up to date with all those assessments and are reviewing all open actions identified by those assessments.
Shortly after the fire, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) asked registered providers to supply details of all homes over 18 meters high. We have 101 such buildings many of them being period properties which had no cladding material. NHH carried out visual inspections on all our newer properties with cladding material. This resulted in NHH taking samples from a total of eight blocks, six of which clearly from the cut samples did not contain any ACM.
We suspected possible ACM in two estates and sent these samples to the Building Research Establishment (BRE). These included Paragon, our student housing blocks in Brentford and Grange Walk, a mixed tenure residential development in Bermondsey.
The BRE have since confirmed that the cladding at Paragon is not ACM. However the cladding submitted from Grange Walk did not pass the BRE’s fire tests.
Our fire safety professionals have visited Grange Walk with the London Fire Brigade and they have carried out checks to fire doors, smoke and fire alarms, checking that the current fire risk assessment is valid and that recommendations from any action plan have been completed.
The blocks themselves are only partially clad in ACM material and thus pose a much lower fire risk, however NHH have put in place a fire watch by trained security officers to complement our on-site concierge service. We have notified residents of the actions we have taken and will continue to stay in contact with our residents until we are assured that there are no outstanding fire risks.
NHH have some buildings where we have long lease arrangements in place that we are also investigating. We have identified one of these blocks so far as having ACM, which is Cranston Court, in White City. This cladding did not pass the BRE’s fire tests. Like at Grange Walk, we are working with residents, stakeholders and the London Fire Brigade to ensure all appropriate actions are taken and there are no outstanding risks.
Notting Hill is also working with landlords, managing agents and developers on other schemes where we have different lease arrangements to identify where there may be blocks that include our residents and potentially have cladding that we need to investigate.
We will continue to provide our full support to any further investigations requested by DCLG.
In terms of our current developments, we are carrying out a review of projects that are on-site, all of which conform with current building regulations. We are also reviewing our briefing and technical guidance to consider fire safety issues that are not already mandated by building regulations.
For our existing residents, our residents’ handbook refers to information about what to do in the event of a fire. Advice varies from home to home so you are strongly advised to familiarise yourself with those for your property. In blocks of flats, this information should be prominently displayed in communal areas.
But preventing fires from starting in the first place is clearly the most effective course of action. The London Fire Brigade’s website contains a host of useful tips and information. You can also read more in the Residents section of our website, where we have pages for Safety in Your Home and Looking After Your Home.
We take the safety of all our residents very seriously. If you have any specific concerns, please speak to your housing officer or property management officer.
Originally published: 07/07/17