South Yorkshire Fire Service updates watchdog on actions taken after Grenfell disaster

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A watchdog is to receive an update on the “significant” work undertaken in South Yorkshire following the Grenfell Tower disaster.

South Yorkshire Fire Authority is to be briefed on Monday about an inspection programme which saw firefighters visit more than 85 high rise buildings as well as high rises at four NHS sites in the county.

A report says the work sought to offer reassurance to communities and ensure audits were carried out at all buildings where the cladding failed to pass British Research Establishment (BRE) test.

The national testing programme began after a small kitchen fire in a flat spread through Grenfell Tower, claiming the lives of 71 people last June.

The inferno in West London prompted a criminal investigation, painstaking recovery operation and several inquiries, one of which is due to hold its third procedural hearing later this month.

Seven of the 43 local authority buildings and 44 privately owned buildings tested in South Yorkshire failed the BRE test.

In its report to the fire authority, South Yorkshire Fire Service said: “Business fire safety inspectors have worked closely with both local authority and private building owners in helping them identify and deal with cladding on their buildings.”

Cladding was removed from the fifth floor of the Stephenson Building at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, according to the report.

It said the Montagu Hospital in Mexborough had also failed the cladding test.

“Upon inspection it was found that this is a two-storey building and therefore not deemed to be high risk in regards to its cladding,” the report said. “Fire safety issues arising from the inspection were dealt with through the normal enforcement channels.”

The report details meetings with residents’ associations and councils as well as with Doncaster housing service St Leger Homes to address “more specific queries and issues relating directly to fire safety in their buildings”.

There have been two reported fires in high rise buildings in South Yorkshire to date since Grenfell, although neither was classed as a major incident.

A training package on fire safety in high rise buildings has also been delivered to all operational crews in the service.

Elsewhere in Yorkshire, Leeds City Council is planning to spend £22m on upgrading safety measures at its high rises and is creating a special tower blocks taskforce to lead the work.

Approval is expected this week for the hiring of a firm to roll out a sprinkler system “retro fitting” programme at eight tower blocks, as well as other safety measures, at a cost of up to £3.76m.

Six council blocks in Leeds have already had their existing sprinkler systems upgraded. But the council has admitted that the scope and estimated costs of the work needed have spiralled, meaning a long-term investment of around £22m is now required.

The council has pledged to spend £10m of its own resources on the project, which it will claim back from the Government, and plans to lobby Ministers for the remaining £12m.

Work also began earlier this month to address fire safety concerns at a student flats building.

Sky Plaza, in Leeds city centre, closed last year as a precaution after concerns about its external cladding and safety procedures.

The building, run by Unite Students, will have its exterior cladding removed and replaced with cladding that has passed UK building control tests.

It was one of 13 West Yorkshire buildings to fail the BRE test, with three of those said to have had cladding removed so far.