Cladding removed from Sunderland tower blocks ‘as a precautionary measure’ following safety testing

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Housing bosses in Sunderland have removed some of the cladding from high rise flats following safety tests.

Gentoo has confirmed workmen were in the city today removing some decorative panels from five of the city's tower blocks.

The five towers are, Church Street, Dock Street, Zetland, Victor and Dame Dorothy.

John Craggs, chief executive officer for the housing company, said the move was a precautionary measure.

He said: "As we stated last week, none of the high rise blocks in Gentoo’s ownership have the same cladding and insulation as appears to be the case at Grenfell Tower.

"We were advised by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to submit samples of some of our cladding panels to the Building Research Establishment (BRE) for testing.

Church Street North flats.

Church Street North flats.

"We now know the outcome of the tests and have taken the decision, as a precautionary measure, to remove a very small amount of decorative panels from five high rise blocks in the St Peter’s area of the city."

The Echo asked Gentoo if the cladding had failed safety testing, but the company said they didn't have anything further to add on their statement regarding the panels.

Read more: Sunderland tower block cladding sent for tests after Grenfell Tower disaster

Mr Craggs said: "I can confirm that all of these panels are being removed from these buildings today.

One of the tower blocks in Church Street North where cladding is being removed.

One of the tower blocks in Church Street North where cladding is being removed.

"Regular communication with our customers is incredibly important and we are carrying out face-to-face reassurance with all of the residents living in these buildings as part of this exercise.

"All of this activity has been coordinated in conjunction with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and we will continue to work in partnership with them to ensure the ongoing safety of our customers, which is our key priority.”

Earlier today shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott claimed "hundreds" had died in the Grenfell Tower blaze.

The MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington also blamed the disaster on Tory attitudes towards social housing.

The current death toll is at 79 but the shadow Home Secretary said she expected this to rise into the hundreds.

“Grenfell Tower is not just an accident; Grenfell Tower is not just an unfortunate incident. Those hundreds of people that died are a direct consequence of Tory attitudes in social housing,” Ms Abbott told a conference of the Labour Progress group.

"The Tories think people in social housing are second-class citizens. And, as we have seen from Grenfell House, they are offering them second-class standards of safety. So, a direct consequence of that. A direct consequence of outsourcing ... and a direct consequence of deregulation."

The fire, which tore into the 24-storey high-rise in Kensington, has left scores of people without homes.

Grenfell Tower: 27 tower blocks in 15 council areas fail cladding fire safety test

Gentoo workers at Church Street North.

Gentoo workers at Church Street North.

Gentoo workers at Church Street North.

Gentoo workers at Church Street North.

Work being carried out at Gentoo's Church Street North.

Work being carried out at Gentoo's Church Street North.