Sunderland MP visits city high rise following Grenfell Tower tragedy

MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, Bridget Phillipson.
MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, Bridget Phillipson.

A Wearside MP has spoken to residents living in high-rise flats in Sunderland following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Bridget Phillipson, who represents Houghton and Sunderland South, visited Lakeside Towers to discuss fire safety with members of the Lakeside Residents Association (LRA) following the disaster in London last month in which more than 80 people died.

Tyne and wear Fire and Rescue Service high rise safety campaign at Aberdeen Tower Silksworth.

Tyne and wear Fire and Rescue Service high rise safety campaign at Aberdeen Tower Silksworth.

She met with Ozzie Braithwaite, chairman of the LRA and residents to discuss the measures that housing association Gentoo have taken since the fire to ensure the Lakeside Towers are safe for residents.

She was accompanied by staff members from Gentoo and Chris Lane, a station manager in Sunderland from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).

Ms Phillipson also witnessed a demonstration of the fire alarm system in Aberdeen Tower to understand the robust processes and procedures that Gentoo have in place to protect their buildings from the risk of fire.

Gentoo manage 23 high-rise tower blocks, of which 20 have some form of cladding and insulation.

Last month, CEO John Craggs assured residents that none of the high-rise blocks owned by Gentoo have the same cladding and insulation as appears to have been on Grenfell Tower.

He also confirmed that the contractors and sub-contractors referred to in the tragedy have not been used within Gentoo.

However, following testing by the Building Research Establishment on samples of cladding panels, Gentoo took the precaution of removing cladding from five high-rise blocks in the St Peter’s area of Sunderland.

None of the Lakeside Towers buildings were affected.

Speaking after the visit, Ms Phillipson said: “I was pleased that they felt so reassured by the help and support that Gentoo and Tyne and Wear Fire Rescue Service have offered since the fire.

“I was also very impressed to witness the fire alarm system in one of the towers first hand.

“It’s clear that Gentoo have robust procedures in place to mitigate against the risk of fire, and that staff are doing everything they can to make residents feel safe.

“The fire at Grenfell Tower was a national tragedy that should never happen again.

“We all need to learn lessons from this terrible event, and I hope that the public and police inquiries get to the root of what went wrong.

“We certainly need to know as soon as possible whether the existing statutory and regulatory requirements on fire safety are fit for purpose.

“It may also be the case that all flats in high-rise buildings have to be fitted with sprinkler systems.

“If so, the Government should spare no expense in giving housing associations like Gentoo the resources they need to carry out this work.

“We must do everything possible to make every high-rise building in the country safe from fire.”