UK News MSPs to be warned of new fire risk from cladding and insulation on public buildings
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MSPS are being warned of a potential new cladding danger on Scotland's public buildings, and will be urged to ditch their reliance on a "discredited" fire safety test, in light of the student accommodation fire in Bolton which took 200 firefighters to control.
The warnings about- which is different to the aluminium cladding which burned during the Grenfell disaster - will be put to a Holyrood committee tomorrow, with politicians urged to ban the combustible material.
The block of flats in Bolton went up in flames at the weekend, and while an investigation into how it began and how it spread is still being conducted, the mayor of the town said the building was constructed with high pressure laminate.
Bolton fire: Warnings were issued over laminate used in student housing block
The overnment's expert panel on fire safety had concluded that some forms of the cladding were unsafeTwo people were injured in the massive blaze at the accommodation building in Bolton, Greater Manchester on Friday.
Today the Scottish Government said the laminate cladding would be included in an inventory it is collating of public buildings in light of the Grenfell fire, and government minister Kevin Stewart pledged the findings of the Bolton fire would be reviewed and "appropriate action taken."
The UK government has already issued advice notes to the construction industry and local government on the use of high pressure laminate and also spandrel panels - two common types of materials used to cheaply clad new-build schools, hospitals, student accommodation and other public buildings - and the insulation which is used with them.
The advice notes warn that building owners, particularly those of high rises, should check what insulation is used with the cladding types, and if they are assessed as "unsafe" because of combustibility, they should be removed.
Student flats operator ‘committed to help’ inquiry after Bolton blaze
Witnesses said what appeared to be a small fire ripped across and upwards within minutes.The Cube building in Bolton, which houses more than 200 students at the University of Bolton, did not have the same type of cladding that combusted in the Grenfell Tower fire of 2017 and is fitted with high-pressure laminate (HPL) coloured panels.
However, a source in the cladding industry told The Scotsman that many architects are unaware the guidance even exists, and warned of an "expensive timebomb" for public authorities who would need to replace either the cladding, and building insulation - which could just be a sheet of styrofoam - or both, to ensure they reduce the fire risk.
A producer of building insulation materials, Rockwool, has also written to MSPs urging a full audit "of all high-rise buildings and for the removal of any combustible insulation and cladding found".
A report by the firm states that "people have a right to expect that the buildings they live, work and study in are safe" and recommends the government takes urgent steps to ban combustible materials and enshrine it in legislation; to complete an audit of existing buildings to identify all combustible facade materials; and the removal of combustible materials and cladding below the industry's Euroclass B standard.
Here Are The Fire Safety Issues Still Unresolved More Than Two Years After Grenfell
A fire at a student accommodation block in Bolton has brought into sharp focus a series of major fire safety concerns that are still unresolved more than two years after the Grenfell disaster. The Cube building, which housed more than 200 students at the University of Bolton, did not have the same type of cladding that combusted in the Grenfell Tower fire of 2017: instead, it is fitted with high-pressure laminate (HPL) coloured panels. ButThe Cube building, which housed more than 200 students at the University of Bolton, did not have the same type of cladding that combusted in the Grenfell Tower fire of 2017: instead, it is fitted with high-pressure laminate (HPL) coloured panels.
Today in Holyrood the safety of cladding on student accommodation was raised by Scottish Green MSP Andy Wightman, who asked what work was being done to ensure Scotland's students were safe in light of the fire in Bolton.
He said that the blaze had been "incredibly scary" and eyewitnesses had said "the fire crawled up the cladding like it was nothing".
Mr Stewart, the minister for local government, housing and planning, said the duty for fire safety risk assessments lay with the landlords, but added that the government had written "to a range of bodies in June, including the Scottish Funding Council, representing colleges and universities, to raise awareness of cladding tests being commissioned by the UK government which may prove useful as part of such risk assessments."
He said: "Any significant fire in a residential building is a concern for all of us. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has said their investigation into the Bolton fire will consider the role external cladding played into the development and spread of the fire. Once that information is available we will review the findings and take the appropriate action necessary."
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Mr Stewart said "a database" to contain safety information and "an inventory" was being developed to provide a central source of information on cladding - including the high pressure laminate which was on the Bolton building.
Tomorrow the issue will be discussed at Holyrood's Local Government and Communities Committee, where MSPs will also be urged to stop relying on a "discredited" fire safety test which has already been ditched by the UK government.
The Association of British Insurers, which will attend tomorrow's meeting, has said the BS 8414 test used to test the safety of the cladding was “utterly inadequate” as it under-estimated the ferocity and spread of real blazes.
Speaking ahead of the session, convener, James Dornan MSP, said: “After the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, and last week’s student accommodation fire in Bolton, the issue of fire safety in our homes has been of deep concern for people across the country.
"The committee is determined to investigate whether current building standards are robust enough to ensure that people in Scotland can feel safe and not at risk.
“We are looking forward to hearing from experts on whether current rules around cladding are sufficient in minimising the risk of fires, especially in high rises."
He added: “The committee is also aware of reports that homeowners in some high rise blocks have found their properties to be valued at zero, due to a lack of cladding certification. This means that they are for now ‘unsellable’ and this is something we would like to investigate further."
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Electrical Safety First said 14 out of 15 everyday electrical products it bought on the advice of technical experts failed independent testing.Electrical Safety First said the two sites, as well as online marketplace Wish, were putting consumers at risk from possible severe electric shock and fire after testing items such as hair straighteners, phone chargers, travel adaptors and laser hair removers.