Dozens of tower blocks have failed a new safety test that was more thorough than previous checks in the wake of the Grenfell Tower blaze, it has been reported according to The Telegraph. Cladding and insulation used in at least 60 high-rises are said to have not passed the latest inspection, the BBC said. Fire safety at high-rise buildings has been thrust into the spotlight after at least 80 people died, many as they tried to escape, from the 24-storey Grenfell Tower last month. Previous fire safety checks have only examined cladding from towers. The new test checked the cladding along with the foam insulation used in Grenfell. Lord Porter, the Local Government Association chairman, told the BBC that housing associations and private sector landlords will be among those that own the 60 tower blocks that failed the latest fire test. The government is expected to release its full findings of the “whole system fire test”, along with guidance, on Friday.
The revelation comes after campaigners called for individuals to be prosecuted over the Grenfell Tower fire. Scotland Yard said it had “reasonable grounds” to suspect corporate manslaughter offences may have been committed. Residents affected by the blaze have been told senior figures from Kensington and Chelsea Council and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation will face formal police interviews. The news was cautiously welcomed by campaigners, who urged the Metropolitan Police to also consider gross negligence manslaughter charges against individuals.
Meanwhile, an investigation has found that hundreds of towers across England were discovered to have fire safety flaws including broken fire doors and holes that could help blazes spread. New figures uncovered by Inside Housing on fire risk assessments (FRAs) at 436 social housing blocks revealed nearly a third (268) had fire doors that were damaged, unable to close properly or of an inadequate standard. The trade magazine found 71 blocks had been identified as suffering from a lack or deficiency of emergency lighting in stairwells or communal areas, which could hamper the escape of tenants. At 73 buildings, residents were either offered no safety information for fires or it was unclear or incorrect, the investigation found. FRAs from the blocks were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from 36 councils or arms-length management organisations and seven housing associations, dated between 2012 and July 2017 – meaning some issues could have since been resolved.
There are around 4,000 tower blocks across England, at which there is no legal requirement for those managing the buildings to carry out the fire-safety assessments within a specific time-frame. Fire experts, however, recommend annual checks.
A nationwide safety operation was launched to establish how many buildings were clad in material similar to that blamed for aiding the Grenfell Tower fire’s spread, exposing hundreds potentially at risk. In a letter updating residents on the criminal investigation, the force said: “We have seized a huge amount of material and taken a large number of witness statements. “After an initial assessment of that information, the officer leading the investigation has today notified Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that each organisation may have committed the offence of corporate manslaughter under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.”
Police do not have the power to arrest individuals under the offence of corporate manslaughter, but someone can face gross negligence manslaughter charges if a death may have been caused by an act or omission on their part. The Metropolitan Police said the letter was “simply an update on the investigation so far” and “should not be taken to conclude that the identified offences and organisations are the only offences, organisations or individuals that are being investigated”.