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Fire escapes removed from top-storey Clerkenwell flats in 1999 refurbishment

Staircases were removed from the top floors when tower block was reclad

30 June, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

Wycliff House, which lost fire escape staircases

FIRE escape staircases were removed from the top floors of a Clerkenwell tower block as part of the same refurbishment project that saw cladding applied which Town Hall chiefs believe may be combustible, the Tribune can reveal.

Cladding added to blocks during a refurbishment of the 1950s Brunswick Close estate has been sent for testing at a government laboratory over fears it contains a similar plastic material to that used at Grenfell Tower.

All cladding sent to the government-run lab has failed safety tests so far, including that used at Braithwaite House, a council block in Finsbury, which is being removed.

Islington Council is awaiting results of tests for material used at Brunswick Close, as well as the Harvist estate in Holloway.

Wycliff House is one of the Brunswick Close blocks which had the fire escapes, connecting the 13th floor to the 9th, removed as part of a project completed in 2000. Blocks were also reclad and given new blue balcony fronts and double glazing.

The project was launched around the same time as the refurbishment of Braithwaite House.

John Quigg, who lives on the 13th floor – the top of the block – said: “In addition to the stairwell, you had a means of getting from the 13th to the 9th floor. That was taken away 18 years ago [but] I think we all agree that we’d prefer to have something [a means of escape] rather than nothing.”

The high-level escape staircases from the access balconies met regulations at the time the estate was built governing means of escape from buildings higher than firefighters’ ladders.

Wycliff has two set of lifts but they can’t be used during fires. There is only one stairwell.

A blaze in a second-floor flat at Hind House on the Harvist estate – where cladding has been sent off for testing – caused panic among residents last Saturday.

Some of the external cladding was affected by the blaze but did not catch fire. The fire was contained within the flat.

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