Councillors sign off multi million £ removal of cladding in two high rise blocks

Fife councillors have approved the multi-million pound budget needed to replace the potentially hazardous cladding on two tower blocks on Thursday.
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The local authority’s cabinet committee rubber stamped the programme of safety improvement at Methil’s Swan and Memorial Court flat blocks after a review suggested the external wall insulation used on the buildings in 2012 and 2013 potentially posed a higher risk. The project will cost between £4 and £4.5 million.

“Improving the fire safety of our tower blocks in Fife and the safety of our tenants and residents is paramount,” the housing and building services spokesperson, Judy Hamilton (Labour), said.

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“While replacing the external wall insulation in this instance, it makes perfect sense for us to take the opportunity to upgrade the tower blocks to realise all the benefits that would bring.

Swan and Memorial Court in Methil (Pic: Fife Council)Swan and Memorial Court in Methil (Pic: Fife Council)
Swan and Memorial Court in Methil (Pic: Fife Council)

She continued: “These works will be delivered at pace to ensure that the highest standards continue to be met and that tenants can be reassured that they remain safe in their homes.”

Earlier this month, the committed to replacing the material. It came after a consultant’s report said the external insulation and a lack of fire breaks in the buildings “potentially posed a higher risk.”

The tower blocks are home to a total of 156 households - there are 78 in each -and have 24/7 caretaking and concierge coverage by council staff.

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The consultant’s report claimed the current cladding - which fully complied with the building standards at that time - contains some combustible material and therefore may carry an element of risk. The review also identified a lack of 360-degree access around the buildings.

Fife Council has consulted with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service about the issues found in the consultant’s report and it agreed that there is no imminent risk. However, the council has said it is committed to making the investment and replacing the cladding at the flat blocks as a precautionary measure.

The investment will also include internal fire stopping works; energy efficiency improvements; the introduction of an evacuation plan for residents; and communication with tenants.

Councillor Colin Davidson, convener of the Levenmouth Area Committee, said: “I’m delighted to see Fife Council act so swiftly on this issue because tenants’ safety is of course our top concern here. We will not compromise on safety standards and we hope that the steps we are taking to raise standards further will be welcomed by everyone.”

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On Thursday, councillors heard that all tenants have been kept fully up to date with developments since the findings from the review came to light. A team of housing officers began communication and engagement with council tenants, and staff visited all vulnerable tenants as a matter of urgency.

Drop-in sessions in the tenants’ lounges have also been held by representatives from the housing service and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Servic. These will continue over the coming weeks and months.

John Mills, head of housing services, added: “Our approach through experience is based on the following principles: to be open and transparent with elected members and our tenants, to get on the ground quickly and carry out face-to-face visits, to follow that up with clear fire safety advice in partnership with SFRS, and continue to be visible and closely engage with tenants for as long as required.

“The initial feedback from staff is that there has not been a significant number of concerns or questions raised by our tenants, which is obviously great news, but we’d encourage anyone who has any issues to get in touch with us as soon as they can.”