A London council has warned fire-safety issues found in around 600 of its low-rise homes may be the “tip of the iceberg” of a national problem according to Construction News.

Barnet Council said it is briefing the government and other local authorities after an investigation into a fire last summer found a combination of timber frame and UPVC cladding had helped flames spread.

Fire engulfed four terraced houses at Moss Hall Grove in Finchley, north London, in June 2023. It took 10 fire engines and around 70 firefighters to subdue.

Building consultancy Capital, commissioned by the council’s arm’s-length management organisation Barnet Homes to investigate the fire, found 586 timber-framed homes in the borough, built between the 1930s and 1960s, that had original timber cladding or had UPVC cladding installed in the 1980s.

Capital found the buildings posed a category 1 hazard – a serious and immediate threat to health and safety which Barnet Council has a legal obligation to address.

Barnet fire credit: LFB

Post-war timber-framed construction makes up around 4 per cent of England’s housing stock, according to the 2020/21 English Housing Survey.

Deputy council leader Ross Houston said there was a “need for a national plan to raise awareness and work out how best to support homeowners”.

He added: “We believe the 586 affected homes in Barnet are just the tip of the iceberg across the country.”

The council will agree next week (12 March) on a £3.6m remediation package to replace the cladding on 153 council homes. It estimates it may cost up to £23,000 per property to replace cladding.

Darren Rodwell, building-safety spokesperson for local-authority membership body the Local Government Association (LGA), said the government should make funding available to councils to remediate problems in low-rise buildings.

He said: “The LGA has long been warning that the height of a building is a poor indicator of its potential risk.

“This is why councils want to see the responsibilities of the Building Safety Regulator to be extended to residential buildings below 18 meters in height.

“In light of other recent fires, it’s clear the government cannot risk any further delay.”

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “We are aware of the action being taken by Barnet Council with respect to timber-framed terraced housing and continue to engage closely with them on the steps they are taking.

“The Building Safety Regulator is aware and is keeping the situation under review. We will continue to liaise with the BSR and local authorities as appropriate to determine whether further action is necessary.”

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