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Expert will check fire safety of tower doors

Hearing is told of residents’ concern after Grenfell blaze

19 January, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Cladding was removed from Braithwaite House last summer following the Grenfell Tower tragedy

A JUDGE has ordered that an expert must decide whether front doors of flats at a Finsbury tower block meet current fire safety regulations after a dispute between residents and the Town Hall.

Two seventh-floor leaseholders who live in Braithwaite House have voiced their concerns before a county court judge. They claim they have asked Islington Council for documents to prove their current doors, or potential new ones, meet fire safety regulations following the Grenfell Tower blaze.

The Town Hall had asked for the hearing to seek an order granting the council access to the two flats so it could install fire-safe front doors.

Clerkenwell and Shoreditch County Court heard how the two women had concerns about the safety of their current doors. They are also worried about new plastic architrave fitted to neighbours’ doors, which would also be used if their doors were unsafe. One resident, a former building estate officer, wanted to see documentation confirming its safety, including certificates about calibration of materials used.

“I am more than happy to upgrade my door. I’m worried about safety of my flat, my neighbour’s flat and my building,” she said at the hearing.

The other resident, who believed her current door was installed in the 1990s, said that she had been disappointed that she had had to come to court to agree a solution. Since Grenfell, she had asked the council a number of times for information about the fire safety of her door.

“All I have asked is if my current door is okay so I can upgrade it to make it fire resistant for the current regulations. Then if not, I have to replace the door and, then, is the plastic tested?”

The council came under scrutiny last year after Braithwaite House was found to have aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding, which was removed. The Town Hall is now deciding what to replace it with.

The council said it is replacing all council tenants’ doors, funding the work from rents. It has offered to replace, at cost, leaseholders’ doors which do not meet fire safety requirements.

Alternatively, leaseholders can organise their own replacements which meet the same standard.

District Judge Caroline Bell said: “I appreciate there are a lot of other issues going on. The terrible events of last year have brought this all to everyone’s focus and clearly no one wants to be in the position where the same situation happens in another council.

“There must be some pragmatic way to go forward.”

However, the judge insisted that the outcome of the civil action would not be a “test case” for the rest of the building.

After long discussions the judge ordered the council and the residents to arrange for a fire safety expert to examine the current doors.

The council could not confirm how much it has cost to bring the concerned residents to court, including payment of its barrister.

A spokesman said: “As legal proceedings are ongoing we will not comment on the specifics of this case. However, the council remains committed to compliance with the latest fire safety regulations on all of its estates, with a rolling programme of assessment and works being undertaken where necessary.

“Leaseholders have a legal duty to ensure their front entrance doors comply with the regulations, and may be liable if they do not. As a responsible landlord we will continue to work with and encourage all leaseholders in our blocks to comply with their obligations.”

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