Cladding on five Sunderland tower blocks has failed fire safety tests, Government reveals

Workers remove cladding from one of the Sunderland tower blocks.
Workers remove cladding from one of the Sunderland tower blocks.
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Five blocks of high-rise flats in Sunderland have had cladding removed after it failed fire safety tests in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Hundreds of tower blocks around the country have had cladding tested in the wake of the London blaze, in which at least 79 people are thought to have died.

Yesterday the Gentoo Group, which runs the city's social housing, confirmed that five tower blocks in the St Peter's area of Sunderland - Church Street, Dock Street, Zetland, Victor and Dame Dorothy - were having decorative panels removed following the results of tests.

Today the Department for Communities and Local Government confirmed that the panels had failed combustibility tests carried out by the Building Research Establishment.

They are among 60 high-rise buildings in 25 local authorities across the country that have now failed the tests for combustibility.

Gentoo's chief executive officer John Craggs 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.

“Last week 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.

“On Saturday we were informed by the BRE that these were category three panels and therefore decided to remove these as a precautionary measure.

"This represents a very small amount of decorative panels from five high-rise blocks in the St Peter’s area of the city."

The highest safety score available in the testing is 0, and the lowest is 3 - which is what some of the cladding on the Sunderland flats was rated as.

Mr Craggs added: “Customer safety is of paramount importance to us, so we acted immediately, and I can confirm that all of these panels have now been removed from these buildings.

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

“All 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.”

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid revealed yesterday that all the buildings that have so far submitted cladding samples have failed.

Other tower blocks which have failed the tests are in Doncaster, Norwich and Stockton-on-Tees, while Manchester, Plymouth and Portsmouth have already been named.

Islington, Lambeth and Wandsworth joined Barnet, Brent, Camden and Hounslow on the growing list of London boroughs, while 11 other areas are yet to be named.