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Slough tower block's cladding fails government safety tests

Reporter:

James Hockaday

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Concerns have arisen after the cladding for a private block of apartments in Slough failed the government's cladding testing scheme.

Last week, residents of Nova House in Buckingham Gardens were sent an email saying the seven storey building may have panels made from aluminium composite, the same type of material used on Grenfell Tower.

Having been sent for testing, property managers Ringley Group emailed residents on Friday to say the cladding had failed.

The firm told residents that instead of testing a panel from the block itself it would send a spare panel owned by the developer, causing unease among some residents.

On Friday, a fire consultant and a fire brigade team inspected the property to consider the best safety advice to issue.

Ringley Group has changed its advice, urging residents to leave the building if a fire breaks out, having previously said to stay put and wait for the fire services.

After Friday’s inspection, Ringley Group told residents that they would not have to move out.

It is unclear whether the cladding will be replaced and whether residents will be charged for the replacement.

Last week they were told they may have to pay extra service charge costs for a 24/7 on-site fire warden.

Richard Venables, 53, who shares an apartment at Nova House, told the Express: “We have not heard from them since the email on Friday.

“They invited us in that email to ask questions. They’ve not been answered.”

Nova House, which has 68 apartments and is believed to house more than 200 people, opened in 2015.

Its original developer was Timeless Property Services, which is now known as Click Properties Ltd, which appointed Butler and Young, licensed by the Construction Industry Council, to inspect the property.

Butler and Young's director Charlie Craven said to residents in an email that the building has a backing wall which provides '60 minutes insulation and 60 minutes integrity for fire resistance.'

A Slough Borough Council spokeswoman said that since 1997, developers have been able to use private building control companies instead of using local authorities.

Darren Pither, director of Nova House's current freeholders, Freehold Properties 42 Limited, said: "This is a fast-moving situation and we are taking the safety of the residents extremely seriously. 

"It is a modern building with a concierge service, fire and smoke detection systems as well as alternative means of escape.

"Subject to a small number of relatively minor issues, which have now been fully addressed, we are relieved to report that the building has been deemed fully compliant with fire and building regulations."

The government confirmed a high rise building in Slough was one of 60 buildings across 25 local authority areas to fail cladding sample testing.

Update July 6: A statement from the Ringley group said: “Within two hours of receiving the test results Ringley's Property Team had arranged a joint inspection between the fire service and our fire consultant, who himself was in the fire service for 29 years, and were on site.  This inspection determined that the building did not need to be decanted and is safe for occupation.  Nova House is not high rise and has a number of other fire safety systems installed including a fire alarm, smoke vent system, dry risers, compartmental, fire doors, etc.

“We have no instructions from our client, the freeholder, to replace the cladding to date.  The developer complied with all building regulations, issued new build guarantees following regular inspection of the works, methods and materials and passed a fire officer inspection.  Until the result of the public enquiry is known and any new legislation is brought in, the materials on Nova House are compliant with UK Building Regulations

“I have no doubt that our client, like all other property owners, awaits the advice from the public enquiry and will act responsibly as soon as further directives are received.  We in turn as managing agent have been in close contact with our client and have at every stage acted with utmost urgency.”

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