High fire risk at Reading flats – ‘urgent’ plans submitted to replace cladding

Plans have been submitted to remove potentially dangerous cladding at an apartment block in Reading’s town centre after investigations revealed the flats were at “high risk” in the event of a fire.

A planning application has been submitted to the council to replace cladding at the Hunsaker, Hermitage, Halcyon, and Haywards buildings in Chatham Place, Alfred Street, with a request for “urgent” approval.

The application from Manco Ltd comes amid calls today from Labour for the government to “get a grip” on cladding and follows similar plans being submitted at the Honister and Hewitt buildings on the same street.

READ MORE: Works planned at apartment blocks to remove potentially dangerous cladding

Government funding is being sought for the proposal to replace the external facade and timber decking on balconies.

If the funding application is unsuccessful, the flat owners will have to pay for the works.

The site is a private residential block of flats with 211 flats, formed of four buildings. Block A and B are both 10 storeys high, while blocks C & D are eight storeys high.

The basement car park at the block was temporarily closed in 2019 to allow for some urgent works to take place.

READ MORE: Fire safety concerns as cladding on flats fails test

Several investigations have revealed that, due to the materials used within the façade and missing or defective fire barriers, the building is “a high risk in the case of fire”.

The site is therefore subject to a “Waking Watching” regime, which means fire marshals must patrol the blocks 24 hours a day looking for signs of fire.

Planning consultant Chris Keen said: “This planning application requires urgent consideration as this is a serious situation where occupiers are affected by the fire safety risk issues associated with the cladding and therefore the remediation scheme needs to be undertaken as soon as possible, subject to funding constraints.

“There are also potentially very large costs involved for the owners of the residential properties in funding and undertaking the proposed remediation scheme.

“There are strict time limits that need to be met for funding to be made available under the Building Safety Fund.

“It is therefore essential that the application for funding is successful and the time limits are met as otherwise these costs will have to be met by the owners themselves.

“Confirmation from Reading Borough Council that all is well with this application is therefore required as a matter of urgency.”

Another of the blocks of flats

Another of the blocks of flats

The cladding is not the aluminium-composite material that played a considerable part in the spread of the Grenfell Tower fire.

An application for funding has been submitted to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s £1 billion Building Safety Fund.

Works could start at the block in March 2021 if the plans are swiftly approved and the funding is granted, Mr Keen said.

If you have been affected by cladding and/or fire safety issues, please contact Tevye.markson@newsquest.co.uk if you wish to share your situation and any concerns.

Reading Chronicle | Town Centre