Theresa May says 600 tower blocks have similar ‘combustible’ cladding to Grenfell Tower

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Moya Crockett
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Hundreds of tower blocks across the UK could be covered in cladding similar to Grenfell Tower, it has been revealed.

Downing Street says that an estimated 600 high-rise buildings in England alone are covered in similar cladding to the west London block that went up in flames last week, killing at least 79 people. As a result, thousands of lives could be in danger if a fire was to start in one of these buildings.

Combustible cladding has been definitively identified on at least three other tower blocks across the UK, the Guardian reports.

Flammable panelling on the outside of Grenfell Tower in North Kensington is thought to have helped spread the fire across the building’s exterior, trapping dozens of people inside in the early hours of 14 June.

A Number 10 spokeswoman confirmed that the potentially dangerous cladding had been found on three buildings. She added that local councils’ estimates suggested that the actual number of at-risk blocks was much higher.

“In terms of how many buildings and how many homes have this type of cladding, the estimate provided to us by councils is that there are approximately 600 high-rise buildings with similar cladding,” she said.

The spokeswoman said that the government was in touch with local authorities to “encourage them” to send samples of panelling from high-rise buildings in their area, to enable them to “carry out the checks that we need”.

If blocks were found to be covered in combustible cladding, she said that the government will carry out one “further test to make sure the building is resafe”. If these tests determined that a building was at risk of a fatal fire, residents could be rehomed.

“Obviously nobody will be living in buildings that are unsafe, they will be rehoused if they need to be and landlords will be asked to provide alternative accommodation where that’s possible,” said the spokeswoman.

However, London mayor Sadiq Khan said that residents in all tower blocks with flammable cladding should be rehoused immediately, unless the government could reassure them that their homes were safe.

“The government needs to ensure all resources necessary are made available to local authorities for the testing process, for checking those tower blocks and for rehousing people in their local community,” he said in a statement.

The London borough of Camden said that it will immediately remove cladding from five tower blocks, because it is similar to that which burned on Grenfell Tower.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday morning, Theresa May said that none of the survivors of the Grenfell fire will be forced to move somewhere they don’t want to go.

There had been allegations that survivors would be forced out of the area. Labour MP David Lammy, whose friend Khadija Saye died in the fire, said that he received an email from a local councillor claiming that survivors were being offered homes as far away as Preston in Lancashire.

The councillor said that former Grenfell tenants who refused were being put at the bottom of the housing list because “they are making themselves voluntarily homeless”.

However, the Prime Minister said that any MPs who learned of this kind of thing happening should contact No 10 immediately. She added: “For any guilty parties, there will be nowhere to hide.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that the tragedy followed a pattern of marginalised communities being disregarded by authorities.

“From Hillsborough, to the child sex abuse scandal, to Grenfell Tower – the pattern is consistent: working-class people’s voices are ignored, their concerns dismissed by those in power,” he said.

“The Grenfell Tower residents and North Kensington community deserve answers and thousands and thousands of people living in tower blocks around the country need very urgent reassurance.”

Images: Rex Features