Councillors to rule on multi million £ removal of cladding in high rise blocks

Fife’s Cabinet Committee will be asked this week to approve the multi-million pound budget needed to replace high rise cladding.
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Earlier this month, Fife Council committed to replacing the material on two high rise buildings in Methil. 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 at Swan and Memorial Court 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 price tag of the improvements has finally been revealed ahead of next week’s committee meeting. John Mills, head of housing services, reported that the project will cost between £4 and £4.5 million over two financial years to complete.

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)

“The existing housing revenue capital budget 2022-25 has the capacity to absorb these costs. Additional revenue costs arising from the project such as consultation and housing management costs will be met from the existing HRA budget.”

Swan and Memorial Courts were the first tower blocks in Fife to be improved with External Wall Insulation (EWI) in 2012 and 2013. The cladding was attached straight onto the buildings without any space between the walls and the insulation.

“This fully complied with the building standards in force at that time. However, it is now clear that phenolic contains some combustible material and therefore there may be an element of risk,” a consultants report found.

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“The review also identified a lack of 360-degree access around the buildings due to the topography at the rear elevations. Taken together with the need to progress the internal fire stopping works that the original company was engaged to complete, our review identified an increased fire risk at Swan and Memorial Courts which requires urgent attention.”

Fife Council said it was committed to fire safety investment at the flat blocks as a precaution.

A committee report said: “As a precaution and to bring the blocks at Swan and Memorial Courts in line with the other tower blocks in Fife, the head of housing services has taken the view that the existing cladding should be stripped down and replaced with mineral wool EWI. This is the main action for the council to take to remedy the updated fire risk assessment.”

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

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“While I understand the report could be potentially worrying for high-rise tenants in these blocks, I want to reassure them that the course of action we are taking is purely precautionary,” Council leader David Ross (Labour), previously said.

“Tenants’ safety is our top concern and, in light of the new information contained in the report, we have been working closely with Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to ensure that the fire safety measures currently in place are satisfactory. That continues to be the case. However, it is also true that this report has highlighted some issues we want to address.

He continued: “We will not compromise on safety standards and we hope that the steps we are taking to raise standards further will help to provide additional reassurance to our tenants.”