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Clerkenwell tower block residents ‘in the dark’ over wait for fire doors

It has emerged there are delays due to concerns over the suitability of the new doors

14 September, 2018 — By Emily Finch

The 23-storey Michael Cliffe House in the Finsbury Estate

RESIDENTS living in one of the borough’s tallest blocks of council flats have labelled the Town Hall a “joke” for keeping them in the dark over delays to installing new fire doors.

As reported by the Tribune, people living in Michael Cliffe House in Clerkenwell have long-campaigned for better fire safety in their homes and have called for sprinklers and fire-resistant doors throughout.

Islington Council’s housing chief, Cllr Diarmaid Ward, promised the residents in the 23-storey building they would get new self-closing fire doors “installed as soon as possible” back in April.

But it has now emerged that this has been delayed due to concerns over the suitability of the new doors.

In the meantime, residents say none of their front doors are self-closing and they fear smoke could spread during a fire if someone runs from a burning flat without stopping to close their door.

“Residents have been kept in the dark with no indication why there has been a delay,” said Richard Larcombe, chairman of Finsbury Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association.

He added: “We were first told that our doors would be replaced in a letter from the council in 2012. It’s all been very, very slow. We’ve had sample doors delivered to our community room but residents have had no letters from the council as to why they can no longer be used. It’s a joke.”

Minutes from a Tall Building Fire Safety meeting at the end of July, released to the Tribune through a Freedom of Information request this week, revealed a borough-wide pause in the installation of new fire doors.

It follows government testing of fire doors in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy which found a door made by Manse Masterdor had only lasted 15 minutes when it would have been expected to last double that time.

The bi-monthly meetings in Islington, which see Cllr Ward meet with council workers to discuss fire safety, revealed how “[the] programme of replacement front doors is still on pause following concerns about ‘Manse Masterdor’ doors.”

The minutes added: “MHCLG [Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government] has undertaken a number of different tests on these doors but there still continues to be a lack of clarity on the issue.

“In the meantime, we are continuing with updating door closures but we still have 650 doors to replace plus the PFI-managed street properties. We need to wait for clarity on the situation before we can continue with the programme.”

Minutes from earlier meetings indicate that the programme was put on hold in May.

There is no suggestion that Islington Council-backed contractors were installing the same doors found at Grenfell Tower in the borough’s homes.

Kensington and Chelsea said it would be removing Masterdor fire doors from 4,000 homes in May.

The government is testing products from more than 20 suppliers, which took over Manse Masterdor in 2014, withdrew two types of doors from the market, the House of Commons was told in July.

Masterdor, meanwhile, said earlier this summer: “Masterdor takes its responsibilities extremely seriously. The company is currently undertaking one of the most extensive fire door testing programmes seen in the industry to establish the precise nature of the issue and to devise an appropriate fix.”

A Town Hall spokeswoman said: “Islington was checking more than 35,000 properties, adding: “We will be upgrading a great deal of fire doors or replacing them with newer products.”

She added: “Not all fire doors are the same and different buildings can require different safety solutions. The government has begun testing a range of different fire doors in light of recent concerns.

“We are waiting to see if there are any meaningful conclusions that can be drawn from their work that can inform our own, and this will affect the roll-out of work in some buildings.

“We are sorry that some residents of Michael Cliffe House are frustrated with the progress of works as we replace doors in their building. However, residents should be assured that their build- ing is in the borough’s lowest fire risk category.”

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