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The High Rise Task Force are reassuring residents following the Grenfell Inquiry Report publication

The Greater Manchester High Rise Task Force wants to reassure Greater Manchester residents of the work being done to ensure the safety of their homes as the Grenfell Inquiry Phase 1 Report is released.

The High Rise Task Force, which currently meets every six weeks, was set up by the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham to oversee the response in Greater Manchester following the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower.

Led by Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett, The Task Force brings together all ten local authorities, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS), landlords of tower blocks across the city-region in both private and public ownership, as well as representatives from universities, utility companies and other specialist teams to ensure buildings are safe and that Greater Manchester can respond effectively to a major high rise incident.

Since the fire at Grenfell Tower, GMFRS has inspected every tower block in Greater Manchester and has worked to ensure that fire safety risks are identified and action is taken. There are currently 79 buildings in Greater Manchester which do not meet adequate standards of fire safety and have changed their evacuation strategy. These buildings are regularly visited and GMFRS continue to work with landlords, managing agents and residents in affected buildings to reduce the risk until work can be undertaken.

Salford City Mayor and Chair of the High Rise Task Force, Paul Dennett said:Following the release of the Grenfell Inquiry report, my thoughts are with bereaved families and survivors of the Grenfell Tower tragedy at this time.

“On behalf of the High Rise Task Force I want to reassure all Greater Manchester residents, but in particular those who live in high rise buildings, of the work being done to keep them safe. We know that fully evacuating a high rise building will be challenging but the fire service has plans in place to assist or instigate an evacuation if necessary. The Grenfell Inquiry Phase 1 report will give us the opportunity to review and where necessary refine these plans, and as Chair of the Task Force I will ensure that we carefully consider the recommendations and that we respond to them over the coming weeks.  

“I will also ensure that the Greater Manchester High Rise Task Force continues to support our residents, providing a combined approach to our response to fire safety in our city-region to prevent anything like the Grenfell Tower tragedy happening again.  

“The Taskforce regularly meets with residents in order to clearly understand their issues and concerns. From these meetings it is evident that the main concern for our residents, as it is for the Task Force, is the number of buildings which still have unsafe cladding on the outside of them and the associated costs which have fallen upon many residents to make their homes safe. As Chair of the Task Force I have made it clear that it is wholly unacceptable that residents and leaseholders should be faced with this financial burden and I will therefore continue to raise this issue with Government on behalf of residents.”

Although the focus of Phase 1 of the Inquiry was on the response to the fire it is clear from this report and the Government’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety that the current regulatory system is not fit for purpose. The Government need to do more to make sure that homes are built safely and residents facing life changing bills, to make their buildings safe are protected. In Greater Manchester we have repeatedly told the Government the problem extends beyond ACM cladding and yet testing of other systems has not been complete. This is an industrial crisis from which developers have profited and residents have to deal with the consequences – residents have told us they can’t afford the works required and are struggling with increased costs for insurance and the costs of changing the evacuation strategy, many are unable to sell or re-mortgage and all live with the anxiety that a fire will occur in their building. Even where the Government has made funding available it only covers the removal of ACM and in many buildings there is mixed cladding all of which needs replacing.

“The Government has recently threatened to ‘name and shame’ building owners and seems oblivious to the reality that for the majority of these buildings not only are residents liable for the cost of the work, residents are responsible for arranging the work. I have met and spoken with residents who carry this huge responsibility and they are getting no support from Government. We will continue to do all we can to support residents.”

Tony Hunter, Assistant Chief Fire Officer said: “Today we are thinking of all of those affected by the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower. I want to be clear with Greater Manchester residents living in High Rise buildings that since the fire at Grenfell Tower we have already reviewed and made changes to our procedures to ensure that if necessary we are able to instigate an emergency evacuation in any high rise building.

“Since June 2017, our advice to residents has been to ‘stay safe’ which means if they have any concerns about their safety or if there is any sign of smoke or fire in their home they should leave immediately. This reflects the concerns that resident had and continue to have about ‘stay put’ as a strategy for their buildings.

“We will consider the detailed recommendations in the report to inform further review and where necessary changes to our approach.”

Since it was established, the work of the Task Force has included:

  • GMFRS inspecting every residential high rise in Greater Manchester to ensure they comply with fire regulations. GMFRS officers have and continue to work with and support local authorities, social landlords, managing agents and residents to address fire safety concerns.
  • Offering advice and support to residents on staying safe in their homes by offering safe and well visits to residents in affected blocks
  • Submitting evidence to the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety and Greater Manchester’s view that the building regulations system is not fit for purpose and needs to be overhauled were reflected in the report.
  • Lobbying government to provide clear guidance and the necessary funding to ensure Greater Manchester buildings and residents are safe. This includes supporting housing providers and building owners with interim fire safety measures and the replacement of cladding systems, ensuring GMFRS has the resources needed to effectively enforce fire safety legislation, and protecting residents.
  • Carrying out a Greater Manchester High Rise Residents Survey to gain a better understanding of the issues and concerns of residents, to help direct and inform the future work of the Task Force. A full report from this survey will be published in November.
  • Submitting a Task Force response to the Government’s Building a Safer Consultation, using resident views gathered from the resident survey and focus group to inform the response.
  • Holding Civil Contingencies workshops for every borough in Greater Manchester to support contingency planning for significant events in high rise buildings.
  • Working with housing providers to develop Greater Manchester standards and developing a procurement framework for fire alarms and retrospective installation of sprinklers.
  • Salix Homes, one of the housing providers from the High Rise Task Force, are participating in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Early Adopter Programme to trial ways of working in line with the recommendations of Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations.

The Task Force will examine the findings of the Grenfell Inquiry Report carefully, and consider how best to apply any recommendations that are relevant to Greater Manchester.

Greater Manchester high rise residents can visit the GMFRS website for flat fire safety advice and guidance here

If you are concerned about the safety of a friend or family member in their home, GMFRS offer free Safe and Well visits across Greater Manchester. You can find out more about Safe and Well Visits here or call 0800 555 815 to book a visit.


Article Published: 30/10/2019 14:25 PM